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What is Better Streets, Safer City?
The Oklahoma City Council voted to call a special election Sept. 12, 2017 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 will 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.
Oklahoma City voters approved all of the measures.
Where does the money come from?
For the bond program, the money comes from property taxes. About 14 percent of your property tax goes to the City of Oklahoma City, and the rest goes to schools, the county and other government entities. For example, the owner of a $150,000 house pays about $248 each year for Oklahoma City’s portion of the property tax. The City uses the money to pay for bonds.
For the sales tax initiatives, the money comes from purchases of goods and services within Oklahoma City limits or online sales subject to local sales tax.
What is a bond program?The City of Oklahoma City uses bonds to pay for building and rebuilding streets, bridges, sidewalks, parks, public safety facilities and more. Oklahoma City’s strong credit rating means it can issue bonds at low interest rates for a sustainable and efficient funding source.
What does the permanent 1/4 cent sales tax pay for?
The permanent ¼ cent sales tax is 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.
The Council intends to use the funds to hire 129 additional police officers, and hire 57 more firefighters to staff two additional fire stations and bring an idled fire engine back into service. The funds allow the Council to restore essential services reduced while sales tax declined.
The permanent ¼ cent sales tax adds an estimated $26 million per year to the General Fund.
What does the penny sales tax extension pay for?
Over 27 months, the temporary penny sales tax will generate $240 million of revenue for better and safer streets, sidewalks and trails for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
It will fund $168 million for street resurfacing, $24 million for streetscapes, $24 million for sidewalks, $12 million for trails and $12 million for bicycle infrastructure.
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.
How were the bond projects chosen?Bond projects were determined based on resident survey results, street and bridge ratings, planning studies, the City Council’s strategic priorities and operating impact.
How is this different from MAPS 3 and other MAPS programs?
The bond package is for basic needs and critical infrastructure every community needs for stability, growth and safety. It's funded by property taxes, whereas MAPS programs have been funded by a sales tax.
The permanent sales tax is different from MAPS programs because it's a permanent tax dedicated to police, fire and other day-to-day City services. MAPS programs have been temporary taxes for ambitious capital improvement projects that improve our quality of life.
The temporary sales tax extension is similar to the temporary public safety sales tax program that came before MAPS for Kids. The temporary penny sales tax extension and the previous temporary public safety taxes are both shorter than MAPS programs and fund important capital projects -- in this case, streets, sidewalks, trails and bicycle infrastructure -- without borrowing money.
Was there a bond program before?Yes. Voters approved an $835.5 million bond program in 2007 to fund critical projects much like the 2017 program. Most of those projects are finished, under construction or in design now, and the 2017 program will continue moving us forward.
Does this fund every infrastructure need in Oklahoma City?No. It’s impossible to address every need across Oklahoma City’s 620 square miles with any single bond program or sales tax initiative. That’s why resident feedback, planning studies and other tools were essential for identifying priorities.
When will construction begin and end?Construction on some of the projects will start about a year after the election. Construction is scheduled to end on bond projects near the end of the 2020s, and construction will likely end on the temporary sales tax initiative projects within a couple of years of the end of tax collections.
Are there plans for unexpected needs?Yes. A portion of the bond program is for unlisted projects to provide a contingency to address unexpected needs. Experience tells us we’ll find needs that weren’t apparent while making project plans, and that’s how we’ll fund projects to meet those needs.
Do the project budgets include projected cost inflation?Yes.
How is the City funded?
The City of Oklahoma City is primarily funded by taxes. Sales tax revenue makes up most of the General Fund, which pays for the City's day-to-day operations. Other important sources of revenue include use tax, property tax and hotel/motel tax.
With the 1/4 cent sales tax increase approved as part of the Better Streets, Safer City election, the local sales tax in Oklahoma City is 4.125 percent. Of that, 2 1/4 cents goes to the General Fund, 3/4 cent goes to Public Safety, 1/8 cent goes to the OKC Zoo, and 1 cent goes to MAPS 3.
Property taxes finance general obligation bonds, which voters approve for specific capital projects. It is a common misconception that property taxes help pay for the City’s core services. Although this is true in many states, cities and towns in Oklahoma are not allowed to levy property taxes for day-to-day operations.
Hotel/Motel Tax helps promote OKC as a tourism and convention destination and is charged for hotel stays. Bringing tourism and conventions to OKC helps boost our economy.
Use tax is due on goods purchased outside of Oklahoma and brought into Oklahoma City and consumed in situations when no sales tax was charged. An example is something you buy online from another state and no sales tax is charged, but you use the item in OKC once it's delivered.
Where can I learn more?Go to okc.gov/bettersafer or call the Public Information & Marketing Office at (405) 297-2578.