Mayor Bartlett hopes to extend sales tax

by: Ian Silver Updated:

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Monday, the mayor and City Council will hold the first City Hall in Your Neighborhood meeting of the summer in downtown Tulsa.
 
One of the big topics of discussion will be the mayor’s proposal to extend the six-tenths of a cent sales tax from Vision 2025. The Vision 2025 tax expires in 2016, but the mayor wants to extend and it use a third of that money to fund more cops and firefighters.
 
The city has most of the $3.5 million needed to build a new fire station; the problem is it can’t afford enough firefighters to keep it staffed. The mayor says extending this sales tax could solve a lot of our police and fire staffing issues.
 
“I can definitely agree with the firefighters, because you never know what’s going to happen,” said Amy Jacobsen.
 
Jacobsen wants more firefighters protecting her area, even though she personally thinks there are enough police officers.
 
She said she’s willing to continue paying the sales tax she’s been paying for eight years to improve safety in Tulsa. But she thinks there are plenty of Tulsans still struggling and wouldn’t mind seeing the tax expire.
 
“Some people, they just can’t afford to pay all that, so much tax for a lot of minimum-wage jobs. Everybody’s going to take every penny that we can get,” said Jacobsen.
 
Mayor Dewey Bartlett said putting aside two-tenths of the six-tenths of a cent would create an estimated $14 million per year.
 
“Use it solely for hiring of new police officers, new firefighters and even have dedicated crews to maintain our street system,” said Bartlett.
 
Right now, those things use up more than 60 percent of the city’s yearly budget. But the extra funds would leave more money for other departments in the general fund and create enough revenue to hire 70 more cops and 34 more firefighters.
 
As for the other four-tenths of the six-tenths sales tax?
 
“Renewed for 10 years, that would be $280 million. How that would be used? Well, let’s ask the public what they would like to see,” said Bartlett.
 
The mayor knows what he would like to see.
 
“Really the game-changers for the next several decades for our city, and certainly putting water in the river is there top of the list,” he said.
 
Jacobsen likes that idea.
 
“I remember how it used to be beautiful, and now it’s just like a little stream,” said Jacobsen.
 
Most important to her is getting extra money for firefighters and pothole crews.
 
The mayor hopes to have voters approve the extension before the tax expires in 2016, so the city can hire firefighters and get the new fire station built shortly after that.