Tulsa finally has its Vision 2025 renewal package in place.
After more than two years of meetings, haggling, arm-twisting and last-minute maneuvers, here’s what Tulsans will vote on April 5:
An $884.6 million package that includes $272 million for public safety; $102 million for transportation and $510.6 million for economic development.
When it comes time for Tulsans to cast their votes, they will be asked to approve three separate sales taxes:
1) A permanent sales tax for public safety (the tax would begin at 0.16 percent on Jan. 1, 2017, and increase to 0.26 percent no later than July 1, 2021).
2) A permanent 0.085 percent sales tax for transportation, street maintenance and traffic operations.
3) A 15-year sales tax for economic development. (The tax would begin at 0.305 percent on Jan. 1, 2017, and increase by a half a cent, to 0.805, for four years beginning no later than July 1, 2021. The tax would then go back to 0.305 percent on July 1, 2025, and remain at that rate until the tax expires on Dec. 31, 2031.
The city’s current sales tax rate is 8.517 percent.
Should all three sales taxes, totaling 0.55 percent, be approved by voters, the city’s sales tax would dip to 8.467 percent.
However, residents of Tulsa will also be voting on a Tulsa County Vision 2025 renewal on April 5. That proposal is expected to call for renewing 0.05 percent of the existing 0.60 percent Vision sales tax (the gap between the existing Vision tax and the city’s proposed 0.55 percent Vision renewal).
Should both the city’s proposed 0.55 percent Vision renewal pass and the county’s 0.05 percent Vision renewal pass, the sales tax rate within the city of Tulsa would remain the same.
Under no circumstance would the city’s sales tax rate increase, but it could decrease by different percentages depending on which pieces of the Vision renewal package are approved.
Tulsa and other area municipalities last year decided to create their own Vision 2025 sales tax renewal packages to replace the countywide 0.60 percent Vision sales tax once it expires at the end of this year. That tax was approved overwhelmingly by county voters in 2003 and funded major capital projects, including the construction of the BOK Center.
What’s in Tulsa’s proposal?
Public Safety: $202 million for the Police Department to cover hiring 160 new police officers over five to six years; $70 million for the Fire Department to cover hiring 65 firefighters over the next five or so years.
Transportation: Includes $45 million street maintenance and traffic operations and $57 million for transit operations and capital equipment
Funding includes money for operation of the city’s bus rapid transit system, downtown circulator and Sunday bus service.
It would also cover capital expenses related to a downtown transit hub, including parking and relocation of the bus station.
Economic Development: Funding would pay for a variety of projects, including $127.2 million for reconstruction of Zink Dam and the construction of a low-water dam in south-Tulsa Jenks and related infrastructure.
The other major projects include $65 million for a major renovation of Gilcrease Museum; $55 million for improvements to Cox Business Center and a master plan for the area; $30 million for Expo Square; and $25 million for the Tulsa Zoo and Living Museum
Note: The south Tulsa/Jenks low-water dam would not be funded if Jenks residents fail to approve funding for the project. If Jenks residents fail to fund the dam and Tulsa residents approve funding for the project, the city would not collect the sales tax needed for the dam or would use the revenue to fund projects on a contingency list. Those details are being worked out and will be voted on by the City Council next week.
What didn’t get in?
A lot. The city received proposals for approximately $2.5 billion in economic development projects. That figure does not include funding for low-water dams.
A project that had strong support, in theory, at least, but didn’t make the cut was Raw Space. The brainchild of Scott Phillips, the proposal called for creating a “co-working facility for industrial-scale companies” similar to the set-up at 36 Degrees North.
Phillips described the venture this way: “An industrial-scale innovation and creativity hub to create new businesses, new jobs and new innovative endeavors for heavy industry.”
Ultimately, questions regarding how the project would be operated — in partnership with the city, or independently — and other practical considerations, as well as a lack of available funding, left the program off the final list of projects.
Bridging the gap
A week ago the city was looking at a $1.02 billion Vision renewal package.
The proposal called for capturing millions of dollars from the Improve Our Tulsa revenue stream once the existing package expires.
Doing so, however, would have left the city an estimate $334 million short for future street rehabilitation and other capital improvement projects.
To make up for the projected future shortfall, councilors and the mayor decided not to capture the Improve Our Tulsa bond revenue stream once the package expires in 2019 and to capture only half of the Improve Our Tulsa sales tax revenue stream once the tax expires no later than June 30, 2021.
That took care of more than $200 million of the projected shortfall, with the remainder addressed with other modifications to the Vision plan.
The solution gives the city the capacity to pursue future bond and sales tax funding for streets and other capital improvements once Improve Our Tulsa expires.
The funding solution as planned would allow the city to meet its stated goal of achieving a Pavement Condition Index of 65.
After addressing the streets issue, the council and mayor cut approximately $160 million from the list of Vision projects, bringing the total package as of Tuesday to $861.6 million.
The final package approved by the City Council on Thursday was $884.6 million.
What about Tulsa County?
Tulsa County commissioners on Monday will vote to call an April 5 special election to extend 0.05 percent of the existing 0.60 percent countywide Vision sales tax for 15 years.
The county’s list of capital projects totals approximately $140 million. To cover those costs, the county will rely on three revenue sources.
The county’s Vision extension is expected to bring in $60 million to $70 million. The city, meanwhile, has included $30 million for Expo Square projects in its Vision package.
The county will also receive any surplus remaining in the current Vision 2025 sales tax once all other municipalities have received the surplus funding they have been promised. That figure is now estimated at $15 million, leaving the county short about $25 million.
County officials say they plan to use cost savings and federal grants, as well as any other revenue that may become available, to make up the difference.
What will the Vision renewal be called?
That hasn’t been determined, but the early consensus seems to be that the Vision renewal program will be branded using the word “Vision” somewhere in the title.