By Colleen Chen, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma City leaders said taxpayers need to look at the city’s budget woes and MAPS 3 as two separate issues.

MAPS 3 money is not a raise in taxes but an extension of a temporary penny sales tax that already exists. If passed, MAPS 3 would raise $777 million to fund seven major city projects. It's a price tag that overshadows the $6 million that Oklahoma City Budget Director Craig Freeman said the city needs to cut by January.

"We're going to make permanent reductions. When you have to cut positions you are going to be affecting service and cutting service levels," Freeman said.

The news had critics saying MAPS 3 money should go to preventing that instead of building amenities. However, that’s not an option.

"Fundamentally, you cannot pay salaries with a temporary tax and that is what MAPS is," said Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.

Oklahoma City Manager Jim Couch said MAPS 3 funding is designed for specific projects.

“The MAPS 3 monies would specifically be voted on for specific capital improvements. Those cannot be used to subsidize our regular operations,” Couch said.

The only thing that can help the budget crunch is if consumers reverse the recent trend of declining sales tax revenue. Couch said while city leaders can’t control shopping behavior, MAPS 3 should be looked at as a positive thing in the recession.

"We hope to build a place where people want to invest therefore making our revenue pie bigger. That’s the long term goal," Couch said.

If passed, MAPS 3 would be a 7 year 9 month program, which is a much longer time period than what Mayor Cornett said he envisions the downturn in sales tax revenue to last.

"Just look at the history. If you go back to when we launched MAPS for Kids 7 years ago, it started in a recession and ended in a recession. In between, times were pretty good and the revenue numbers were hit after 7 years," Cornett said.

Taxpayers will hit the polls to vote on MAPS 3 on December 8. Meanwhile, budget cut proposals are being put together and should be before the council the following week on December 15.

A trails and river projects event will be held Sunday from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. at the Route 66 Boathouse on Lake Overholser for those wanting to learn more about MAPS 3.