The History of Improve Our Tulsa

As the Third Penny Sales Tax and General Obligation Bonds for capital improvements were approaching time for renewal in 2013, many Fix Our Streets projects were complete or well under way. Tulsans had a chance to see accountability as the street improvement program was carried out.

This time, though, in addition to fixing more streets, the funding package needed to include other necessary capital projects. The City of Tulsa had identified $2 billion in capital needs, and less than half of that was available for voter consideration in November 2013. City Finance had determined an amount that would not raise sales taxes or property taxes above levels seen in the 2008 Fix Our Streets program.

With twice as many capital needs as available funding, Tulsa’s City Hall needed to hear from residents about their priorities for city projects. Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr. and City Councilors scheduled the second annual series of City Hall In Your Neighborhood meetings to hear directly from citizens.

In the spring of 2013, public meetings were held in all nine City Council districts, asking Tulsa residents to identify their priorities for capital improvements funding. Citizens were asked to choose their top three priorities from 10 categories: culture and recreation, fire department, flood control, information technology, planning and economic development, police department, public facilities, sanitary sewer, streets and transportation, and transit.

Results from this polling showed that Tulsans’ top priorities were streets and transportation, culture and recreation, transit, and public facilities. Next on the list were police, planning and economic development, fire, information technology, sanitary sewer and flood control.

By summer of 2013, a draft capital improvements funding package was ready for public consideration and five more citywide public meetings were held in July and August to receive comments on the proposed projects. At the end of August 2013, the City Council approved a final capital improvements funding package for consideration at the November 2013 election.

Voters approved two funding propositions totaling $918.7 million. These included issuance of $355 million in General Obligation Bonds and a $563.7 million extension of a 1.1 percent sales tax (Third Penny). The General Obligation Bonds would fund street projects only. The sales tax would fund street projects plus projects to meet many other needs of the City of Tulsa.