In 1993, Oklahoma City voters decided to turn around their struggling city by doing something about it: approving a new tax on themselves.
The $350 million sales tax-funded initiative was created to revitalize Downtown (including an area of empty warehouses), improve Oklahoma City’s national image and provide new and upgraded cultural, sports, recreation, entertainment and convention facilities.
By funding the projects with a limited term, one-cent sales tax, the projects were built debt free. The U.S. Conference of Mayors noted, “Using a pay-as-you-go structure allowed Oklahoma City to build world-class facilities without the burden of debt for future generations and city leaders. Oklahoma City citizens made the historic decision to invest their own money in the city they called home.”
Due to the overwhelming success of MAPS and recognizing the needs of the city’s struggling public schools, Oklahoma City proposed a second MAPS initiative. MAPS for Kids went before voters in 2001 and passed with a 61 percent majority. The new sales tax generated $514 million along with a $180 million Oklahoma City Public Schools bond issue, which was used for school facility improvements, technology and transportation projects. Seventy percent of the sales tax funds were disbursed to the Oklahoma City Public School District and 30 percent to surrounding suburban districts. When the last facility is constructed, the program will have built or renovated 70 Oklahoma City Public School buildings and provided funding for hundreds of other metro area school projects.
In 2008, residents approved another short-term, one-cent sales tax after the MAPS for Kids tax expired to fund improvements at the downtown arena and build an off-site practice facility to accommodate the new NBA franchise, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
MAPS projects are built debt free, and over time the money is collected and spent efficiently, without burdening future taxpayers. For example, the MAPS for Kids sales tax, passed in 2001, took effect in 2002 and ended in 2008. Because of the time it takes to plan and build school buildings, not all of the projects were complete when the tax ended. The original MAPS projects were also completed a few years after the last tax funds were collected. Every MAPS initiative has essentially been a 10 to 12-year process, and the same is expected of MAPS 3.