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OKC voters will determine future investments before deciding mayor's race

E.I. Hillin / Red Dirt Report
Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid suggests a city tax to help better fund public schools in Oklahoma City.
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Before Oklahoma City voters get the chance to choose their next mayor, they will be asked to determine the city’s next few years of capital investment through a major bond issue and renewal of the MAPS tax.

City leaders want to invest more than $1.1 billion in streets, police, fire, and other basic needs.

The general obligation bond issue would total $967 million. Property tax would be used to pay back the bonds. There is a package of eleven issues covering streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, traffic control, bridges, parks and recreation, drainage control, new facilities for police and fire and other economic development programs.

The MAPS penny would be broken into a ¼ penny permanent sales tax for the city’s general fund.

Estimates put the addition annual revenue for Oklahoma City at $26 million. The other ¾ penny would be a temporary tax directed at improving Oklahoma City streets. The tax would last 27 months and is expected to generate $180 million in revenue.

If the City Council approves the measures at next week’s meeting, voters will be asked for their approval of 15 separate bond and tax issues on September 12.

During Tuesday’s council meeting, citizens were given the chance to voice their support and concerns about the General Obligation bond issue and the new uses for the MAPS tax. Concerns ranged from drainage projects to money being diverted to help make the rich even richer.

Zenephon Warrior Junior told the Council he hoped his neighborhood’s flooding issues would be addressed, but didn’t see a project listed that would help. He lives in a neighborhood near the Oklahoma City Zoo.

“In our particular neighborhood, we have the Deep Fork Creek Basin that cuts through our neighborhoods and has caused some erosion problems over a number of years,” Warrior said.

Also attending the meeting on Tuesday was Oklahoma City independent pollster Bill Shapard of Soonerpoll.com. He showed that a poll on the proposed GO Bond issue is likely to win approval among Oklahoma City voters.

“Sixty-seven percent of voters would support a general obligation bond on the ballot in the future. I think bodes well for the bond election in September,” said Shapard.

Members of Oklahoma City’s business community also voiced their support for the GO Bonds and the tax proposals.

Greater Oklahoma City Chamber Chairwoman Rhonda Hooper said her organization firmly believes in the direction of the proposals.

“We are in full support of the items in the bond proposition. We also understand in your citizens survey that you have mentioned that road conditions were at the top of the list. Trust me, in our conversations with existing businesses, roads are a primary concern,” Hooper told the Council.

Oklahoma City businessman Carl Edwards asked the Council to consider putting the entire MAPS penny tax toward fixing roads.

“We believe the MAPS penny should be kept whole which would give the city the ability to address more streets resurfacing needs now and to continue to use this portion of the sales tax to create transformational change in our city,” said Edwards.

He also suggested that the permanent ¼ cent sales tax for police and fire should be on the ballot as well.

Several educators had a suggestion of their own for a quarter cent tax. They would like to see voters in Oklahoma City to get a chance to help increase the financial support of public education.

Oklahoma City Board of Education Chairwoman Paula Lewis explained if voters approved, it would reduce classroom size and help retain teachers.

“It’s a last-ditch effort, but I really do plea. I think this could be a strong, strong message for Oklahoma that we are going to educate our kids. This city will be educated,” said Lewis.

The Rev. Lori Walke also pleaded with city leaders to consider sending the proposal to voters.

“Our roads maybe in bad condition, but our schools are worse. Education is infrastructure,” Walke said.

As the discussion turned to the members of the Council, they outlined their thoughts on the grassroots and official proposals.

Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid sympathized with the education tax supporters.

“I think Gov. Fallin and others have basically conceded nothing is going to happen at the Legislature next year in an election year. So, I think many of us feel like we cannot wait a minimum of two years for something to happen. We need to try and make something happen to at least address Oklahoma City schools,” said Shadid.

He proposed that leaders consider taking steps for a city income tax.

“Let us go to the Oklahoma Tax Commission and ask the questions that have never been asked before. No city has done an income tax before.”

Shadid asked for the Council to consider allowing him to explore the possibility.

Many of the council members said they would support exploring ways to help schools in the area, but didn’t know how to begin to take on the task. They also expressed a desire to avoid unintended consequences.

The Oklahoma City Council is scheduled to take a vote next Tuesday, June 20, on what proposals will make it on the September ballot.

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Jason Doyle Oden

Jason Doyle Oden is a proud Oklahoman. He's an experienced broadcaster and award-winning...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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