DALLAS - Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor has proposed a $451.6 million street maintenance plan, which would be financed in part with $258 million of general obligation bonds, as a compromise to two competing street programs sponsored by city councilors and one that she put forth in May.
The City Council is scheduled to select a streets package by Aug. 7, hold a public hearing a week later, and vote Aug. 21 on whether to put it onto the Nov. 4 ballot.
Bill Martinson, who represents District 5 on the City Council and chairs the streets subcommittee, has developed a 10-year, $1.6 billion program that focuses on street maintenance. Councilor Bill Christiansen, who represents District 8, has proposed a five-year, $270 million plan that concentrates on street widening projects.
The $2 billion plan outlined by Taylor two months ago adopted Martinson's proposal, but added $122 million in street widening projects and $281 million for other capital needs, including new buses for Tulsa Transit, upgrades to the city's telecommunications system, and maintenance at city facilities. Taylor's plan also adds two years to the street program. w
Financing for the 12-year proposal includes $770 million of GOs. Christiansen's shorter program called for $160 million of GOs, with annual sales of $40 million from 2010 through 2013.
The city's GOs are rated Aa2 by Moody's Investors Service and AA by Standard & Poor's.
In a letter to the City Council, Taylor said she asked finance director Mike Kier and public works director Charles Hardt to come up with an alternative street plan after some concerns were voiced at public hearings that the 12-year program was too ambitious during an economic slowdown.
"The $2 billion plan solves the street issue without a doubt," Taylor said. "But based on the input at the streets meetings, I question whether it is one the citizens will pass in this economic time.
"While Tulsa and Oklahoma have been somewhat sheltered from the national foreclosure and troubling economic news, it is clear we are not immune," she said. "Still, we must fix the streets. We have allowed a leaky roof to remain unattended for too long and it shows."
As the five-year program progresses, the city could review the street improvement effort and decide how to proceed in the future, the mayor said.
In addition to the GOs, financing for Taylor's five-year plan would include $131 million generated by extending the city's third-penny 1% sales tax that is set to expire in early 2013 and $35.6 million from capturing the city's share of Tulsa County's 0.0167% Four-To-Fix II sales tax that will expire in 2012.
Taylor's plan does not include the $2 billion proposal's $281 million of non-street capital needs or $390 million to hire 100 workers to form in-house streets crews.
Martinson said the mayor's five-year plan would not bring the city's arterial streets to an acceptable condition.
"It doesn't fix the streets," he said. "That's my primary concern."
Martinson said he believe Tulsa residents understand that more money must be dedicated to street maintenance after years of neglect.
"It is going to take money to get out of this situation," he said. "I wish it didn't, but this work has been deferred too long. The longer we wait, the more expensive it is going to get."
Martinson said he expects the council to select a street plan in time to bring it to the voters at the general election in November.
"I think we're getting closer," he said. "We're actually in pretty good shape."