By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — After a long night at city hall, the Norman City Council unanimously approved an amended resolution to put the renewal of the Public Safety Sale Tax before voters on April 1.
The tax renewal vote will come in conjunction with the election for even-numbered city council wards.
The city council approved the PSST renewal package minutes before midnight Tuesday. The initiative will not raise taxes but will continue the half-percent public safety tax shoppers have paid for the past six years.
The amended resolution calls for a permanent half-percent tax. Council members said they listened to public input, and support was strong for a permanent tax. The council originally proposed the measure as a 10-year temporary tax.
If approved by voters, the ballot initiative will keep the 71 police and fire positions currently supported by the PSST.
Additionally, the tax renewal, if passed, will support a share of the cost for 13 school resource officers. The Norman Public Schools and Little Axe Schools will sit down with city leaders to hammer out a cost share agreement to support those salaries.
The school resource officer program is required to be jointly funded with the public school systems.
The tax also would support four communications officers (dispatch) and two emergency vehicle mechanics.
Capital projects included in the proposal will be done in order of priority to the extent feasible. Those projects include replacement of the city’s outdated emergency communications system, construction of an emergency operations and dispatch facility, replacement of fire trucks and apparatus, and the relocation and reconstruction of Fire Station No. 5.
The Public Safety Sales Tax Oversight Committee will continue to monitor how the money is spent. That committee will be appointed by the mayor, with approval by the council, after consulting with council members on appointments to represent each city ward.
Once the priorities have been completed, the half-percent, permanent tax will be divided into two portions — three-eighths-percent of the tax will go into the city’s general fund to support the public safety salaries. This reallocation of the tax is anticipated at Year 13 after the capital projects are complete. The public safety tax will be tracked separately, but other general funds may be used to support the salaries of those positions.
All jobs created by the PSST are subject to the same union contracts and protections as other fire and police jobs.
The other eighth-percent of the tax will be put into the capital fund to be used for public safety capital projects. That money can only be freed up for other uses in extreme situations, if needed, to support basic city services.
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