Norman City Leaders Debating To Keep Tax For Public Projects
NORMAN, Oklahoma - After generating $52 million in revenue and funding the construction of a new Cleveland County Jail, the bond issue that county’s voters approved in 2008 is set to expire in March of 2020, nine years ahead of schedule.
However, Norman Mayor Breea Clark and Cleveland County Sheriff Todd Gibson say they’ll ask voters to extend and make permanent the sales tax in two separate ballot questions, which combined would replace the quarter-cent tax approved for the jail.
If approved, Clark would like the city’s portion to go toward public transportation and expanding the Cleveland Area Rapid Transit (CART) bus service the city took over from the University of Oklahoma this year.
“We now have a bus system to pay for. That will be at least $1.1 million a year,” Clark said. “We have sidewalks all over the community that are either nonexistent or crumbling. Bike trails, people want to find a safe way to get to work and school and we can work on that.”
Clark said the proposal is still in the early stages, however, she would like to see the question before voters this November. City councilors will hold a conference to discuss the proposal further before Tuesday’s regular meeting.
“If we had the funds to rethink the routes, to make them shorter, to connect Campus Corner with downtown, bring East Norman in, this is so much more we could do,” Clark said.
For the separate county proposal, Sheriff Gibson said funds would be used to maintain the high standards at the jail, improve the Couch Juvenile Center, and offer county grants to improve rural fire districts.
“Citizens would see a true extra benefit,” Gibson said.
He would like the public safety tax to be made permanent. Gibson notes the eighth cent county proposal would mean a reduction in county taxes for those living outside Norman City limits, independent from an additional eighth cent proposal by the city.
The city and county proposals will be separate ballot issues so Norman voters could approve one, both or neither of the measures. Cleveland County voters outside of Norman would just see the public safety proposal.