Published: Sept. 6, 2017
OKLAHOMA City voters will vote next Tuesday on an extension of the MAPS sales tax, a 10-year bond package, and a new quarter-penny sales tax intended to bolster the police and fire departments. The Oklahoman encourages “yes” votes across the board.
In answering city surveys, residents consistently place street conditions at the top of their list of concerns, and note their desire for adequate public safety. The MAPS extension and the new sales tax go directly toward those two concerns.
The current MAPS 3 sales tax expires Dec. 31. Extending the tax for 27 months will produce an estimated $240 million for street resurfacing and related improvements. When added to streets-related revenue included in the bond package for repairs, widening and other upgrades, the total is about $785 million over the next decade. Mayor Mick Cornett has said this will transform the city’s streets into the best in America.
We admit to initially being uneasy about a permanent, quarter-cent sales tax increase, which if approved would place the city’s sales tax rate at 4.125 percent. Combined with the 4.5 percent state sales tax, the rate in most of Oklahoma City would climb to 8.625 percent.
However, the tax will raise about $26 million per year, allowing for the hiring of 129 more police officers and 42 firefighters. The additional police officers would get the department nearly halfway to the 1,311 recommended in Chief Bill Citty’s latest staffing study update.
A police union official noted the average response time for a Priority 1 call is 8 minutes, 15 seconds. Adding officers to the ranks would reduce that time, and that’s important.
The $967.4 million bond package being presented to voters comprises 13 items, two of which would pay for a joint police-fire training center and the construction of three fire stations to replace aging structures.
Other bond-related items include $137.7 million for improvements to city parks and trails, and the Softball Hall of Fame stadium; $60 million in business incentives to encourage development and expansion; and $20 million for city transit including new buses.
Oklahoma City has enjoyed tremendous growth in recent decades, and that continues today. Approving the slate of items on the ballot next week will help the city address the challenges attendant with this expansion.
Also next week, voters in Oklahoma County will choose the man they want to see serve as sheriff for the next three-plus years. The Oklahoman endorses acting sheriff P.D. Taylor in this three-person race.
The job became available when former Sheriff John Whetsel resigned March 1, after 20 years, and just a few months after winning re-election.
Taylor, 71, defeated three others in a special Republican primary in April. Now he faces Democrat Mike Hanson, 54, and independent Ed Grimes, 63. They have attacked Taylor, longtime undersheriff, as part of the problem at the county jail. But Taylor has implemented numerous changes since taking over, and is open to potential reforms to reduce jail crowding.
We believe his experience is important, that he’s got his own agenda based on many years of personal observation, and that Taylor merits voters’ support.