A new fiscal impact analysis has found that Oklahoma City
benefits from encouraging revitalization of its urban core against
concerns of city sprawl, although the difference is less than city
officials said they expected.
The study by the TischlerBise economic planning consulting firm
also found that the city's income structure cannot continue to
provide services to residents at their current level "without
finding new revenue sources or raising existing rates."
"When you don't have specific numbers available, you make
assumptions that are broad and big. Then you find out that the
issues are smaller, but more intricate," said Mayor Mick Cornett
after staff presentations to City Council members and other city
leaders Tuesday at a special council meeting. "But am I swayed after
looking at this that sprawl isn't such a big deal? No; it's still a
big deal, but I think it's a little more complicated than we thought
The TischlerBise analysis was based on assumptions that the
current level of spending and services provided, as represented by
the fiscal year 2006 budget, will continue at that level. Oklahoma
City Planning Director John Dugan stressed that the study focused
only on projected development and infrastructure needs of the next
decade based on that snapshot in time and could not address service
deficiencies that were not obvious in the budget then.
Population projections show the 539,300 estimated city residents
in 2005 will grow to about 610,100 by 2015, resulting in a similar
growth pattern in housing units and jobs. That growth will drive
additional retail development on which the vast majority of the
city's funding is based. Researchers tackled two scenarios for
comparison: The first assumed land use policies and development
trends would continue unchanged, allowing more urban sprawl, while
the second was modified by potential public policy decisions that
would shift some of that development closer to the city's core.
Without additional funding, Oklahoma City government will face a
cumulative net deficit of about $54.5 million over 10 years under
existing policies, or a cumulative net deficit of $24.6 million if
policies are shifted to focus on keeping people closer to the
center. The difference between the two scenarios, about $3 million
annually, was less than City Council members and city staff
expected, many said.
But it's still not enough reason to loosen the reins on urban
sprawl, Cornett said, noting one complication outside the range of
the study is how population density affects the school districts
that rely extensively on ad valorem taxes.
"You have to consider how the impact on schools impacts on our
government. If you don't think there's a connection, all you have to
do is look at MAPS for Kids," he said of the voter-approved
temporary sales tax for the redevelopment of the Oklahoma City
Public Schools District. …