The city has wrapped up a proposed extension of the Improve Our Tulsa tax.
The $639 million package will come to voters Nov. 12 in three pieces:
• A $427 million bond issue that is heavy with street maintenance, widening and improvements and also includes $5.3 million to continue improvement of the Tulsa Transit Bus Rapid Transit program and $5 million for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
• A separate $193 million extension of temporary sales taxes through the end of 2025 would fund improvements for Tulsa Zoo, the city animal shelter and parks. That package includes a variety of other projects such as replacing a police helicopter, new fire equipment and $1 million for each city council district to use for public purpose projects of their choosing, subject to City Council oversight.
• A tiny sliver of existing temporary sales tax — 0.05% — would be made permanent as of July 1, 2021. The money would be dedicated to a city rainy day fund. It is expected to raise $19 million over its first 4½ years.
The package won’t raise tax rates on Tulsans. The bond issue replaces existing bonds. The sales taxes replace temporary sales taxes for similar capital programs that are due to expire.
The city sought public input on the shape of the Improve Our Tulsa renewal in two waves over the course of months. Fairly late in that process, golf advocates publicly voiced concerns that there was too little money specifically set aside for the city’s Mohawk Park and Page Belcher courses. That didn’t lead to any more course earmarks, but the city did start moving toward establishing a citizens’ committee to set priorities, raise money and advocate for the city-owned courses.
The golfers and others may think the city missed the mark on some specifics, and we’ll admit to some qualms about elements of the package. But the general shape of the package — especially the emphasis on street improvement — clearly matches the priorities of most Tulsans. The bond issue money, totaling 67% of the entire package, are dedicated to transportation, especially better, wider streets, bridge improvements and traffic engineering.
The public debate, however, may center on the remaining 33%. We’ll see over the next three months if the city can convince the public that the package is close enough to 100% right for at least 50% plus one of the voters.