City officials decided to put the $120 million Ford Center improvements to a vote last March, easily winning voter approval and bringing the Oklahoma City Thunder to the downtown arena.
Economic boomThe original Metropolitan Area Projects passed in 1993. The five-year, 1-cent sales tax and a six month extension raised more than $360 million that paid for the Ford Center, the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, the Bricktown Canal, the Ron Norick Downtown Library and several other capital projects that sparked hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment and an economic boom in downtown. MAPS for KIDS passed in 2001, raising nearly $700 million to renovate or rebuild every school in the Oklahoma City School District and for capital projects at the suburban districts with schools inside city limits. The 1-cent Ford Center tax began Jan. 1 as the MAPS for KIDS tax expired. A December vote would allow the city to keep the sales tax rate unchanged and begin collecting money for MAPS 3 when the Ford Center tax expires in March. Cornett said sagging sales tax revenues have had some effect on MAPS 3 discussions but likely won’t be a problem because the tax will be collected over a number of years. "When you are looking at expected revenue over several years, it’s fairly predictable,” he said. "We are very mindful of doing everything we can to make sure we have enough money to do the projects at the level that the people are going to expect.” Given the success of MAPS and MAPS for Kids, Cornett knows those expectations are high. He said any projects included will have to have a transformative effect on the city. "MAPS is not about the ordinary,” Cornett said. "It’s about economic development and quality of life.”
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