A 1/8 cent sales tax aimed at giving Oklahoma City’s parks a boost by providing added funds for operations and maintenance expenses went down in a close defeat Tuesday.
The petition failed, with 52.8 percent of voters rejecting the proposal. Its failure ends a winning streak of citywide measures presented to voters that dated back to the 1990s, when the first MAPS vote took place. The last such defeat was in 1989, when a sales tax increase for parks and recreation facilities and libraries failed to win approval from Oklahoma City voters.
More recently, a massive MAPS 4 package passed by a wide margin on Dec. 10.
The loss marks a close defeat for proponents who began their work in June, gathering more than 6,000 signatures that ultimately put the tax before voters on the Super Tuesday ballot.
Advocates said that the sales tax would have provided up to $15 million annually, according to Yes for OKC Parks, which had campaigned for the tax’s passage.
Former OKC City Councilman Ed Shadid started the petition effort because, he said, previous MAPS projects had strained operations and maintenance budgets of the Parks and Recreation Department.
“We’re already in a situation where we can’t pay for what we’ve built, and we’re about to have another tsunami of projects that will not have operations and maintenance,” Shadid said in 2019. “That will almost certainly mean deep cuts to the parks department when the next recession hits. This initiative petition is something that is complementary to MAPS.”
Mayor David Holt has previously said he favored endowments as a way to generate funds for the Parks and Recreation Department’s operations as new MAPS projects have come online.
But the measure that failed Tuesday ran into opposition in the form of television advertising by Secure Oklahoma Inc., a political action committee aimed at swaying the voters away from another tax.
Support in Oklahoma County was fairly evenly split, with the measure losing by fewer than 1,000 votes. But the proposal was less popular in Canadian and Cleveland counties, which have parts of Oklahoma City within their borders.
In Cleveland County, it failed by a 59-41 percent margin. It did even worse — 62 percent to 38 percent — in Canadian County.
Turnout was enormous, with more than 80,000 voters taking part in Oklahoma County alone. That bests the MAPS 4 vote that took place in December, which saw 44,000 voters participate.