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March 30, 2014

Tuesday’s vote could cement Public Safety Sales Tax

NORMAN — Norman voters will have the opportunity to make the Public Safety Sales tax permanent on Tuesday.

The tax is not new. If approved, it will continue at the same one-half percent and it will continue to be designated for public safety use. The original tax was approved by Norman voters in 2008 as a temporary tax and supports 71 fire and police positions.

Feedback from the community to the Norman City Council was that we should not fund permanent public safety jobs with a temporary tax.

The tax will also support several designated capital improvement projects including a high priority communications systems for fire, police and other emergency responders.

“We sat down and figured out in detail what our priorities were and No. 1 is the radio system,” said Norman Police Chef Keith Humphrey. “Our radio system is coming to an end of life in 2018. After that date, Motorola won’t sell any more parts for that system.”

The renewed tax would also support four emergency dispatchers and two emergency vehicle mechanics, but dispatchers need the right equipment to do their jobs, Humphrey said.

“We need a system that provides coverage for 196 and a half square miles for public safety response,” he said. “Our current system has two towers. We need a system with five to six towers that provides that coverage. Since the implementation of that first system, our city has grown. We have more calls for service and it’s very taxing on our system.”

If renewed by voters the PSST will also support 13 school resource police officers.

“Half the police departments in the nation have officers assigned to schools,” Humphrey said. “The school resource officer is not a new program nationally, but it’s a needed program in Norman.

This program will enhance the safety of Norman Public Schools.”

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