The City of Norman’s proposed transit sales tax to fund their public transportation system passed by 70 percent this evening.
The tax will bring in an estimated $2.5 million annually, filling a $2.2 million gap while not raising current sales tax levels. The money generated will go directly into a fund only to be used for public transportation, a service area that suddenly needed support after University of Oklahoma belt tightening left a financial hole.
“Once again, Norman voters have overwhelmingly shown their willingness to support their neighbors by investing in public transit, but this investment is also an investment in our future,” Norman Mayor Breea Clark said in a statement to NonDoc. “Great cities provide great transportation, especially as Norman gears up for regional transit and moves forward on our commitment to sustainability.”
The new one-eighth cent sales tax is a replacement of a portion of a one-fourth cent sales tax set to expire in April.
In her statement that now that Norman has a fully funded bus system, the city looks forward to pivoting their efforts to improving the existing system.
“We look forward to doing all of this without seeing sales tax rates raise about their current levels,” Clark said in her statement. “I’m so grateful to Norman residents for taking advantage of this unique opportunity to continue to invest in our community.”
In July, the city took charge of the campus-only bus system from OU, formerly known as CART. But unexpectedly taking over the bus system caused to city to scramble for a solution.
The cost to maintain the bus system, not including the campus-only route, is about $5.3 million per year.
Norman’s main sources of funding for the bus system in the 2019-2020 fiscal year include an annual $2 million grant from the Federal Transit Authority and a $1.1 million budgeted contribution from the city’s general fund, leaving a $2.2 million annual gap.
According to NormanOK.gov, 300,861 rides were given in the past fiscal year on fixed-route buses, and 32,412 paratransit rides were given to residents with limited mobility or another disability that makes it difficult to reach a fixed-route bus stop.
34 counties had elections overall
In Oklahoma County, the City of Bethany elected former Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Chris Powell to an unexpired council term in the city’s Ward 1. Powell won with 184 of 291 total votes cast, or 63.2 percent.
Voters in the McCloud Public Schools District did not approve a $5 million bond issuance to fund new football, soccer, track and baseball fields, as well as an administration building and other repairs. The district spans four counties: Pottawatomie, Lincoln, Cleveland and Oklahoma.
Overall, only 51.5 percent of voters favored the proposal, falling shy of the 60 percent threshold required for passage under state law.
For full election results, visit the Oklahoma State Election Board. For background on education-related votes, check out the Oklahoma Education Association’s overview.