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January 22, 2014

Support continues for making city Public Safety Sales Tax permanent

NORMAN — Voices continue to be raised in the same refrain: “We shouldn’t fund permanent positions with a temporary tax.”

To that end, many Norman residents voiced support for making the Public Safety Sales Tax permanent, thus protecting the 71 police and fire positions the half-percent tax supports.

Those 71 positions are in addition to the jobs already funded by the city’s general fund. More “boots on the ground” for public safety was a selling point for the creation of the PSST seven years ago.

Norman voters will soon decide whether to renew the public safety sales tax that has built two fire stations and added 41 police officers and 30 firefighters to protect the city.

The half-percent sales tax designated for public safety took effect in October 2008 and will run through September 2015. With that expiration date coming up, the city has been working on a proposal for PSST renewal.

The tax also has been used to pay for some one-time capital expenses, including fire apparatus, the Smalley Army Armory Center renovation into the Norman Investigations facility, computer-aided dispatch, records management, mobile data systems conversion and police in-car video systems.

A citizens oversight committee monitors the special tax to see that it is collected and spent appropriately and reports annually to the city.

The original tax was approved as a temporary tax. Proponents of keeping the tax temporary say renewing the tax every few years allows for an adjusted rate based on need and sales tax trends.

To that end, the city council had proposed that the PSST be renewed at the current half-percent rate for a period of 10 years, generating an estimated $11 million the first year and about $16 million in year 10.

If approved, the tax would be effective from Oct. 1, 2015, through Sept. 30, 2025. The tax would allow Norman to retain the 71 police officer and firefighter positions created by the first seven years of the tax. Additionally, a small percentage of the funds would be put into the Rainy Day fund.

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