A plan to capture future Improve Our Tulsa revenue to pay for Vision 2025 projects would not only significantly reduce funding for street rehabilitation but also eliminate funding for sidewalk construction, traffic signals, facility repairs, small area plans and dozens of other projects, according to an analysis done by the city’s Finance and Engineering departments.
The report focuses on the city’s capital improvement needs from fiscal years 2020 through 2023.
If the Vision proposal is approved as currently configured, additional capital improvement projects that would suffer include repairs for police, fire and parks department facilities and replacement of guardrails and roadway lights.
Approximately $17 million a year for the replacement of equipment in the police, fire, streets, stormwater and other departments also would not be available if Improve Our Tulsa funds are reallocated into the Vision program.
The reallocation of funds would also hamper the city’s ability to keep city’s buildings and transportation network in compliance Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
In all, approximately $135 million a year in funding for capital improvements would be lost from fiscal years 2020 to 2023, according to the report.
The draft Vision 2025 renewal package formulated by city councilors and Mayor Dewey Bartlett calls for capturing nearly $300 million in Improve Our Tulsa sales tax and bond revenue that would have otherwise gone to the projects identified in the report.
In addition, the city’s capacity to raise additional bond revenue beyond what would be raised by extending Improve Our Tulsa is expected to be limited from 2020 to 2023, leaving few options to fund non-Vision-related capital projects.
Under the draft Vision proposal, 1.0 percent of the existing 1.1 percent Improve Our Tulsa sales tax — commonly known as the third-penny sales tax — would be extended for two years beginning no later than July 2021. The extension would cover the cost of $142.5 million in projects, none of which are directly related to street repairs and rehabilitation.
The Improve Our Tulsa general obligation bonds would be extended three years, beginning in fiscal year 2020, to fund $148.8 million in Vision projects.
City councilors and Mayor Dewey Bartlett said Thursday that they are aware of the issue and plan to address it.
“We have definitely asked them (Finance and Engineering) the question and we definitely want answers to know what the impact is,” said Councilor Phil Lakin. “They will tell us that and we will just have to weigh that with everything else we have to consider.”
Bartlett said his message from the beginning of the process has been that the city has to live within its means.
Lakin and Bartlett stressed that the Vision renewal package has not been finalized and that changes could still be made.
“I will bring up several ideas that I think could lesson the amount of money expended on future projects,” Bartlett said.
“We still have the ability to cut it back.”
The mayor added that additional funding sources may be available to Oklahoma municipalities by 2020. Bartlett and Oklahoma City Mayor Nick Cornett are leading an effort to get the state Legislature to expand revenue sources available to cities.
Bartlett and the City Council are scheduled to discuss the Vision proposal again Thursday at a council committee meeting.
The $918 million Improve Our Tulsa package was approved by voters in 2013. The program includes more than $625 million for street-related projects, including $482 million for street repair and rehabilitation. The remainder of the Improve Our Tulsa funding, $293 million, is paying for non-street-related capital improvements.
The proposal to extend the Improve Our Tulsa program to fund Vision projects would not result in the elimination of any Improve Our Tulsa projects approved by voters in 2013.
The 0.6 percent, countywide Vision 2025 sales tax package is set to expire at the end of the year.
The city is proposing extending 0.55 percent of that tax to pay for its Vision needs over the next 15 years and beyond.
The 0.55 percent rate would include two permanent taxes — 0.2 percent for public safety and 0.5 percent for transit — and 0.3 percent for Arkansas River infrastructure and economic development projects.
The remaining funding for the proposed $1.1 billion Vision renewal package would come from the Improve Our Tulsa revenue stream.
The city has until Feb. 4 to present its ballot resolutions to the Tulsa County Election Board. Tulsans are scheduled to vote on the proposal April 5.