The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

6 June 2004

Wrapping up MAPS

After ten years, the Metropolitan Area Projects Citizens Oversight Board is ready to close the books. The once-fractious board voted to put itself out to pasture this week.

MAPS itself was remarkable: a single, massive upgrade of public facilities, financed by a one-cent sales tax for 5½ years. When MAPS was put to the voters in 1993, the city suggested that the projects would spur some $150 million in private investment; during the period the tax was collected, revenues and accrued interest totaled over $350 million, and the private sector so far has kicked in around $1.5 billion. In a city previously considered somewhere between sleepy and moribund, this is a turnaround on par with the '69 Mets.

One worry I had was that things were going to cost even more than the city had projected and the entire scheme was going to wind up in the hole. The final financial report shows about $450,000 still in the kitty, which will be devoted to project upkeep. And that penny sales tax expired in 1999; voters were sufficiently impressed with the results it got to reinstate it in 2001 for "MAPS for Kids", a scheme to upgrade public school facilities in the city, which is projected to cost some $620 million, 70 percent of which will go to schools within the Oklahoma City school district and the balance to schools in suburban districts which serve outlying parts of the city.

I could be cynical and ask what they're going to do in 2008 when the MAPS for Kids tax expires — surely they'll think of something, right? — but for now, I'm waiting to see whether the improvement in facilities is enough to jump-start the process of improving the quality of education.

Posted at 9:22 AM to City Scene