Voters' FAQ: Parks initiative headed for the ballot March 3
Oklahoma City voters will decide March 3 whether to increase the sales tax by one-eighth of a cent for parks programming and improvements.
The election comes as the city council begins weighing a proposal to cut the Parks and Recreation Department budget in 2020-21.
Here are answers to some questions about the initiative.
Q Is the city council behind this?
A No. This is a citizen-led initiative. Advocates needed more than 6,499 signatures to qualify for the ballot; they submitted 7,977.
Q Why vote in March?
A There are presidential primaries and a Sunday liquor sales question on the ballot that day, so Oklahoma City's share of the bill to conduct the election will be less than the $177,435 it paid for the standalone MAPS 4 election. The estimate is $89,000.
Q Speaking of MAPS 4, that election was just last month.
A Initiative organizers would like to have been on that ballot but had to start over after a false start on signature gathering.
Q What does the measure do?
A Levies a one-eighth cent sales tax. Revenue would be dedicated to neighborhood parks and go to outdoor activities such as athletic leagues and exercise classes; park improvements such as baseball field backstops, soccer goals and restrooms, and operational expenses with the exception of mowing the grass, an item sponsor Ed Shadid said costs about as much as the tax would raise on an annual basis.
Q How much would it raise?
A $1.1 million to $1.2 million per month.
Q How much is the parks budget now?
A The Parks and Recreation Department's 2019-20 budget is $35.3 million.
Q What's to keep the city council from cutting the parks budget by an amount equal to the amount raised by the initiative?
A Council members and the mayor have a track record of following the voters' will.
A Doing otherwise could have repercussions at the polls. Initiative backers will be watching.
Q Ed Shadid sponsored this?
A Yes. Qualifying the initiative is the former Ward 2 councilman's first "win" in his new, self-chosen role as citizen legislator.
Q Didn't he do a poll?
A Shadid commissioned a poll back in April that showed 69.5% percent of respondents strongly or somewhat supportive of a one-eighth cent sales tax for parks.