The post-TIF buzz around Norman these days seems to be what to do about the half-cent sales tax that expires this year. An August election is planned but members of the Norman City Council must first prioritize what they would do with the money if voters decide to continue the tax.

Restoring unfilled police and fire positions, economic development efforts and a deposit into the city's reserve fund have all been mentioned by the mayor and council members.

Norman's sales tax continues to grow but the annual growth has not kept pace with rising costs for expenses such as fuel and employee health insurance.

Besides the city, some other public entities are looking at temporary sales taxes as a potential revenue source for projects. No one has put their name behind it, but there seems to be some sentiment for a temporary, countywide sales tax to fund construction of a new jail.

Seventy of Oklahoma's 77 counties have a sales tax, albeit most of them are temporary. Nearby McClain County had a tax that went off the books in June of 2005. Now, commissioners there want the half-cent back and have put the question on the July 25 primary election ballot. If it passes, they'll split the money among rural fire departments, the sheriff's office, senior citizen centers, 4-H and the free fair.

Norman library boosters will also be looking for ways to pay for a proposed new downtown library and some branches. A temporary tax has been mentioned as a way to pay for those projects.

The prospect of marrying temporary tax funds to permanent police and fire positions is a bit worrisome to us. If the economy takes a turn south, the city would have to make some hard choices.

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