An initiative petition filed by former Councilman Ed Shadid will be on Oklahoma City voters’ March 3 ballot. The City Council unanimously approved the election date this morning.
Filed in June, Shadid’s initiative petition would create an additional one-eighth-cent sales tax to fund parks. Shadid and groups like Voices Organized In Civic Engagement gathered signatures, turning in more than 6,500 signatures that were verified by City Clerk Frances Kersey late last week.
For Shadid, it’s the culmination of a long effort to improve the funding situation for OKC’s Parks and Recreation Department. If approved, his proposal could provide about $15 million annually for operations.
Oklahoma City’s sales tax rate would rise from 8.62 percent to 8.75 percent in most areas of the city. The new tax would go into effect July 1.
Former OKC Councilman Pete White spoke in favor of the election.
“I think if you look at what we’re asking to do, you’ll find it to be very transformative as far as our park operation,” White said. “It’s a crying need in parks to have a fixed source of revenue for programming, operations and maintenance, and this will answer that question.”
The March 3 date is the same as Oklahoma’s Super Tuesday Democratic presidential primary.
Shadid has long been a critic of capital projects that don’t include funding for operational and maintenance expenses. Shadid said MAPS 4, which contains some long term capital projects including new parks, will exacerbate the problem. That package passed with more than 70 percent of the vote Dec. 12.
“We’re being asked to give up basic services that are standard in other major metro areas,” Shadid said in June. “We’ve continued to bring hundreds of millions in MAPS projects online with no plan whatsoever to pay for operations and maintenance expenses.”
The Parks and Recreation Department had a $24 million operating budget in 2018. Roughly 13 percent of its current budget goes to fund programming. It spends more than $7 million annually on grounds management and more than $5 million on managing the city’s natural resources. About 6 percent of the city is considered park land.
Upon approval of the March 3 election date, the city launched an FAQ website about the upcoming election.