Tulsa to ask voters for a public safety district
The city of Tulsa hopes to use a new tax option to provide a more stable source of funding for public safety. After years of lobbying by Oklahoma city governments, the legislature has finally given cities the option of asking voters for a dedicated property tax to cover the cost of emergency services. Tulsa plans to put a measure on the ballot in August 2022, asking voters to convert five thousandths of property tax into district public safety tax.
The city’s finance director, James Wagner, said it was possible to raise $ 17 million a year through the tax, without raising tax rates, by extending the terms for repayment of existing bonds. Tulsa is repaying bonds that were once held for 20 years in as little as five years now.
The vote would require approval from 60% of voters.
The Tulsa city government, like all municipalities in Oklahoma, operates almost entirely on sales tax, which is subject to significant fluctuations during economic downturns. Mayor GT Bynum said applying certain property taxes to public safety costs would help “diversify revenues that go to public safety, to help protect first responders and their jobs.”
“I certainly like the concept,” said City Council President Vanessa Hall-Harper, but she also wants to make sure that any rising tide of taxes benefits other city departments. “There are also many other city services and needs, and I would definitely like to see an increase in these other city services for our citizens. “
Tulsa was forced to lay off police officers in 2008 when the sales tax fell, but since then he has created a rainy days fund, with a dedicated tax to add to it, to help cushion budget cuts. The mayor believes adding property taxes to the mix would help stabilize public safety funding, for good.