Citywide vote set for Sept. 12 on proposed bond program and sales tax initiatives
The Oklahoma City Council voted to call a special election Sept. 12 for voters to consider investing more than $1.2 billion in critical infrastructure like streets and sidewalks, including an annual $26 million boost for public safety and other day-to-day operations.
The Council approved three proposals to present to voters:
- 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.
- A temporary, 27-month continuation of the expiring MAPS 3 penny sales tax to fund $240 million for street resurfacing, streetscapes, trails, sidewalks and bicycle infrastructure.
- A permanent ¼ cent sales tax to fund $26 million annually in police services, fire protection and other critical services.
The proposals will be presented on the ballot separately: One item for the ¼ cent permanent sales tax, one item for the temporary penny sales tax, and one item for each of the bond projects.
If voters approve the permanent ¼ cent sales tax, it would be the first increase in the permanent general operations sales tax rate since voters approved a 1-cent raise in 1976.
If voters approve the temporary penny sales tax, it would continue the use of the same penny previously approved as part of the MAPS program.
The original proposals were introduced May 30, and public hearings were held June 13, with an additional public hearing Tuesday for an amendment to the temporary tax proposal. Final Council votes were Tuesday.
All Oklahoma City voters are eligible to participate in the Sept. 12 election.
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 program 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.
The City millage rate is proposed to remain at or below 16 mills, as it has been 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 penny sales tax
The other component, the proposed temporary penny sales tax extension, would help continue catching up on a complete and safe street network for all Oklahoma City residents.
Over 27 months, the temporary sales tax extension would generate $240 million of 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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