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Public hearing for amendment to sales tax initiative set for Tuesday’s Council meeting
The Oklahoma City Council has scheduled a public hearing Tuesday regarding a proposed amendment to the temporary sales tax initiative introduced for consideration last month.
The amendment would continue the expiring MAPS 3 penny sales tax for 27 months to fund street resurfacing, streetscapes, trails, sidewalks and bicycle infrastructure.
The Council is also considering proposals for a permanent ¼ cent sales tax to create an annual $26 million boost for public safety and other day-to-day operations, and a 10-year, $967 million bond package to invest in streets, police and fire facilities, parks and other basic needs. The bond package would succeed the almost-complete 2007 bond program.
Pending Council approval, the sales tax and bond initiatives will be presented to all Oklahoma City voters in an election Sept. 12.
If voters approve the permanent ¼ cent sales tax and the temporary penny sales tax proposed in the amendment, Oklahoma City’s permanent and overall sales tax rate would increase by ¼ cent.
It would be the first increase in the permanent general operations sales tax rate since voters approved a 1-cent raise 1976, and the first increase above the overall sales tax rate voters approved with the original MAPS program in 1993.
The original proposals were introduced May 30, and public hearings were held June 13. A Council vote is scheduled for all three initiatives, including the amendment subject to Tuesday’s public hearing, during Tuesday’s meeting.
All Oklahoma City voters would be eligible to participate in the proposed Sept. 12 election.
The proposals will be presented on the ballot separately: One item for the ¼ cent permanent sales tax, one item for the temporary sales tax, and one item for each of the bond projects.
General obligation bond package
The largest component is a $967 million general obligation bond package, which uses property tax revenue to fund basic infrastructure needs. The package would succeed the $835.5 million package approved in 2007, which is almost complete.
More than half the funds – about $491 million – are dedicated to building and rebuilding streets across Oklahoma City, including sidewalk and bike lane projects.
Streets are perennially a top concern among Oklahoma City residents, which is reflected in the size of the investment included in the bond package. An additional $28 million for traffic control and $27 million for bridges is also included.
A proposed investment of about $138 million for parks and recreation facilities includes new parks and improvements to regional and neighborhood parks across the City.
Also proposed is $62 million for drainage control, $60 million in economic and community development funding, $45 million for firefighting facilities and $31 million for police facilities.
Rounding out the proposed bond package is $24 million for libraries, $20 million for transit, $20 million for the Civic Center complex, $13 million for City maintenance facilities and $9 million for the downtown arena.
Under the proposal, the City millage rate for property taxes would remain the same as it has since the 1980s.
Permanent ¼ cent sales tax
The proposed permanent ¼ cent sales tax would be invested in the City’s General Fund. About two thirds of the General Fund goes to public safety services, with the rest paying for other basic services like animal control, parks and transit.
Included in the proposal is a statement of intent from the Council to use the funds to pay for hiring additional police officers, staffing two additional fire stations and bringing an idled fire engine back into service. The funds would also allow the Council to reverse the cutbacks to other critical services included in recent budgets.
The permanent ¼ cent sales tax would add an estimated $26 million per year to the General Fund.
Temporary sales tax
The other component, the proposed temporary sales tax, would help continue catching up on a complete and safe street network for all Oklahoma City residents.
Over 27 months, the temporary sales tax will generate revenue for better and safer streets, sidewalks and trails for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
The proposal calls for street resurfacing, streetscapes, trails, bicycle infrastructure and sidewalks.
The debt-free projects will create smooth and safe streets for drivers, on-street amenities for recreational and commuting cyclists, and streetscapes and trails that protect pedestrians and cyclists and enhance opportunities for economic development.
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