City begins Norman Forward funding talks

November 10, 2015

Joy Hampton

The Norman Transcript

Council members discussed Norman Forward funding during the 5 p.m. Council Conference meeting. The non-voting meeting prior to the city council meeting allows the council to vet upcoming topics of concern.

The timing of the discussion was in sync with the mayor’s proclamation recognizing Nov. 28 as Small Business Saturday in Norman. Local business owners Mike Thompson of Thompson Pools & Patio and Jocelyn Wall of International Pantry accepted the proclamation on behalf of Norman’s small businesses.

Wall commended the council and Norman voters for passing Norman Forward and reminded them of the continuing importance of shopping in Norman to support the quality-of-life initiative funded through sales tax.

“You only have the money if you shop locally,” Wall said.

The half percent increase of Norman sales tax to fund the Norman Forward quality-of-life initiative will go into effect on Jan. 1 with the first dollars actually hitting city coffers in early March.

January sales tax collections are turned into the Oklahoma Tax Commission which separates out state and local percentages, takes a percentage as an administration fee and then deposits the funds into municipal and county accounts usually no later than the 10th of the month — in this case March.

Norman Finance Director Anthony Francisco estimated the long term projections for the 15 year lifespan of the temporary Norman Forward tax at a 4.25 percent growth rate.

Based on that estimate, year one should yield $850,00 monthly and $10.2 milliion annually.

The council is considering funding projects through a mix of debt financing (bonds) and pay as you go, based on the project.

Bonds must be used within three years, so Norman Forward projects will be broken up into manageable phases. The first loan should be issued by the end of December, and it will likely be for just over $43 million.

The first series of projects to be paid through that debt financing is expected to be design and land acquisition for the central library, design and construction for the east library, the Westwood pool and tennis facilities, indoor aquatics and indoor sports facilities’ designs, James Garner design and right of way, the football and softball sports complex, traffic and roadway improvements, Reaves sports complex design, Andrews Park upgrade and the senior center.

Pay-as-you-go projects have been tentatively identified as Saxon Park Phase II, Ruby Grant Park Phase I, Griffin grading and lighting, renovation of neighborhood parks, and annual payments to buy the Griffin property from the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

In other city business, the council accepted $1,425 in collective donations from 13 Norman residents for bicycle emergency lighting and siren equipment for the police department’s bike squad. The donors asked to remain anonymous.

The Norman Police Department reports that the lighting and sirens “will heighten visibility and safety for police officers riding the bicycles.”

The council also approved the preliminary plat of a replat for Lot 1 and 2, Block 14, Westport Professional Park Addition, south of Tee Drive between 26th Avenue NW and Wall Street. The 4.2 acres and six commercial lots will allow for the development of 20,400 square feet of office space on the west side of 24th Avenue NW.

Also approved on Tuesday was a revised preliminary plat for Eagle Cliff South Addition south of Cedar Lane Road and west of 12th Avenue S.E.