DALLAS — A Tulsa, Okla., sales tax set to expire next year would be extended indefinitely to fund public safety projects under a plan proposed Thursday by Mayor Dewey Bartlett.
The 0.167% sales tax is currently dedicated to a street repair program authorized by Tulsa voters in 2008 and was to be part of an $800 million capital improvement proposal on the November ballot. If Bartlett's proposal is adopted, the capital program will shrink accordingly.
The 0.167% sales tax was extended by voters in 2008 to help support a $452 million, five-year street repair effort, but it is set to expire in June 2014. Collections currently total $12 million a year.
City officials had proposed another five-year extension of the tax as part of the support for the new $800 million capital program. The effort will be financed with GO bond proceeds and annual revenues from the existing 1% city sales known tax as the "third penny tax."
Voters at the 2008 election also approved $285 million of general obligation bonds for the Fix Our Streets program and extended the 1% city sales tax to 2015.
Bartlett said the 0.167% tax should be extended indefinitely with most of the $60 million expected generated over through 2019 to police and fire training. The two academies would cost the city $7 million a year, he said, with $5 million a year available for street repairs and beautification.
"This will be extending an existing tax, this is not a new tax," Bartlett said. "There is no increase in the tax. It's the same."
If the sales tax extension is a separate item on the Nov. 12 ballot, the proposed 2015-2019 program would be reduced to $740 million.
Street repair efforts in the $800 million capital program are expected to total between $470 million to $670 million.
Almost $700 million of other projects have been proposed for the five-year capital improvement effort. A preliminary project list will be presented to the city council next month, with selection of the final project slate in May or June.
Proposals include a $109 million river park, $95 million for street widening efforts, $45 million for planning and economic development, $43.6 million for upgrades at the city-owned zoo, and $35 million of renovations at City Hall.
Tulsa's $481 million of outstanding GO debt is rated Aa1 by Moody's Investors Service and AA by Standard & Poor's.
A series of public meetings now under way will help shape the capital improvement program, said Councilor G.T. Bynum.
"The needs we are reviewing are very basic, bread-and-butter city needs," he said. "Fixing streets, buying police cars and fire trucks, and replacing water lines."
Failure to extend the city's capital program for another five years would be a mistake, Councilor Blake Ewing said at a recent meeting in his district.
"Your streets will get worse," he said. "Your parks will get worse. Your police and fire departments will not have the equipment that they need to do their jobs."