Edmond’s Upcoming Election on Sales Tax
We have two sales tax proposals on the ballot in April. I vote “yes” on the first, and “no” on the second.
The first one is critical to the city’s ongoing wellbeing. A “yes” vote keeps our tax burden the same, and allows us to continue to fund our police, fire, parks, and a few other necessary city functions in the same manner we have for decades. This penny is one of the reasons Edmond has been a thriving, growing city and is a bright star in Oklahoma.
The second sales tax proposal is more convoluted. First adopted five years ago, it was the half penny sales tax for the Public Safety Center. If you have lived in Edmond long, you will remember that about 8 years ago, a tax proposal for the PSC was brought to a vote. It failed miserably.
As I campaigned for mayor shortly after that vote, people said they voted “no” partially because the tax proposed was a property tax. But Edmond residents had a myriad of other reasons for voting “no”: the long period of the tax, the distrust in city leaders to use it for a single purpose, significant debt financing and cost for the building, and the proposed location.
As mayor, I appointed a group of citizens to study the project. The task force agreed that Edmond needed the public safety center – it was integral to safety of citizens. We formulated a plan for a finite 5-year sales tax and determined that we would work toward a “pay-as-you-go” plan to avoid debt and hold costs down. As the ballot title clearly stated, the money would be used only for the public safety center, with any overage of funds directed to economic development.
This proposal was vetted in many public information meetings and at council meetings. Long-time city leaders Saundra Naifeh and Roger Webb were the “cheerleaders” in favor of the finite tax for a finite project. After years of discussion and overwhelming support, the sales tax passed by more than 70%.
Now, city leaders are asking us to extend the tax, even though the PSC is finished.
A new task force of diverse city and business leaders suggested “extension.” After speaking with a member of the task force, I am convinced that the citizens did their homework, and believe that the simplest way to get the next set of Edmond projects off the drawing board is the extension of the Public Safety Center tax. As originally adopted, the PSC tax could not be used for these new projects. For this reason, and in the interest of transparency, the task force asked that the new ballot reflect the change in purpose.
My “no” vote is based simply on the idea that Edmond citizens were promised a finite duration of the PSC tax. In my humble opinion, the public’s trust in city leaders is based on the upholding of promises. The transformation of the old PSC tax into this new tax is not what the citizen intended. Personally, it is not what I envisioned, or what those of us who led the effort, understood to be the way this tax was legally required to work.
Unlike the PCS tax, citizens have not had time to vet the new projects proposed, or to clarify that the tax will only be used for specified projects. The council has not adopted a priority of the list of projects. In my experience, regardless of what a task force recommends, the city council can do whatever they choose with the revenue. The decisions of a task force are not binding on elected officials.
If this new tax is critical to Edmond’s wellbeing, I respectfully suggest that the city council uphold the public’s trust and start from scratch, like we did 5 years ago. Educate us about the projects. Have a full slate of public information meetings, and give us input on their priority.
Until then, I vote “no” on the second proposal.