NORMAN — A seven-year, half-cent sales tax dedicated to public safety needs will expire in 2015, prompting city officials to begin talking about an election to renew the tax. For now, a debate centers on whether to make it a 10-year tax or possibly even a permanent tax.
The tax initiated after voter approval in 2008 has funded construction of two fire stations and the hiring of 41 police officers and 30 firefighters.
Failure to renew the tax would put the police and firefighter positions in jeopardy and would mean no new revenue to fund needed public safety improvements such as replacement of an outdated radio system, said Mayor Cindy Rosenthal.
Rosenthal wants an election in April so that city officials would have a year and a half leeway before the seven-year tax expires. If a vote fails, she said, officials would need that time to figure out other funding options to retain personnel and meet public safety needs.
The mayor is among those who favor extending the tax for 10 years. A permanent tax is more likely to fail, she said.
A vote to extend the tax was discussed at a public meeting this week.
Chamber of Commerce President John Woods said he thinks a vote should be postponed until fall to allow more time for the public to weigh in on the issue and get educated as to why the city needs it.
“We need to make sure if we're moving forward with this, we get a ‘yes' vote. If it fails, it affects everything we want to do in this community,” Woods said.