Monday, February 26, 2007

FAQ’s Regarding Fairgrounds Annexation

There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the facts surrounding Tulsa’s proposed annexation of the unincorporated area on which the Tulsa Fairgrounds lies. This is my attempt to add some clarity to what has amounted to being a one-sided argument. I recognized as I got into this, that this could turn into one very large posting, so I'm going to post these four questions first and then produce more later.

{One other brief note, feel free to post comments, but understand that I'm not going to turn my blog into a "public forum" for debate. There are a lot of such sites available if you want to debate. The purpose of this blog is to provide a place for me to share my thoughts and opinions. As such, I'll be selective in what I approve. If you want to trash me or my opinion, do it on a site you pay for.]

Q: Is the City taking over the Fairgrounds from the County?

A: No. The County’s facilities happen to lie on a parcel of land that is surrounded on four sides by the Tulsa City limits. Several County parks (LaFortune for one) are owned and operated by the County but lie within the city limits of Tulsa. Annexation of the land on which the Fairgrounds lies will not change either ownership of the buildings, or which governmental entity would be responsible for operations.

Q: Is the Fairgrounds a “tax free” zone?

A: No. Sales taxes are collected (or should be) on every transaction for goods (but not services) that occur on the Fairgrounds. The State of Oklahoma gets its 4.5 cents of sales tax. Tulsa County gets its 1.017 cents of tax. Only the City of Tulsa receives no tax on sales of products deep within its city limits. If a 3-cent sales tax reduction is good for the tax payers, wouldn’t a 4.017 cent holiday be better? Why isn’t the County waving County sales tax at the Fairgrounds?
Q: Is the 3-cent tax break the major draw for retail activity at the Fairgrounds?

A: No, it only has a minor appeal at best. If it was a such primary consumer attraction, then basic economics would dictate the construction of retail properties outside of the city limits. However, such establishments don’t occur because several other factors have exponentially greater impact on consumer behavior.

I will endeavor to explore these in more detail later, but for the most part these relate to economies of scale (boat shows have a lot of boat vendors in one place), proximity to desired demographic groups (this can be as simple as closeness to major highways), synergistic marketing (sharing of advertising and promotions to a specific event at a specific time), and limited offers with a distinct ending time (which pushes the consumer to make a decision).

This last item has several factors, one of which DOES deal with the sales tax savings (“The show is over in two hours, after which you won’t save on the tax" strategy). However, other inducements can be given by the vendor to achieve the same end, just as they do with limited-time sales in their respective stores.

Q: Is annexation akin to raising taxes?

A: No more than closing a tax loophole is raising taxes. If someone is given an exception by the government to not pay taxes that others must pay, that is a loop hole. The County currently has a “loophole” smack in the middle of Tulsa’s city limits. Closing a loophole only raises taxes on those who have consciously chosen to use that loophole. It is a major stretch to claim such an action is akin to raising sales tax rates across the board (even if it is to pursue river development).

I know of no better conservative in the Oklahoma legislature than Sen. Randy Brogdon of Owasso. As a former mayor of Owasso, Sen. Brogdon supported the annexation of unincorporated land inside Owasso’s “fence line,” that included retail properties which had previously enjoyed a tax break by being outside Owasso’s taxable area.

Given the facile definition of “tax hike” that some of the more boisterous opponents of annexation have made, then Sen. Brogdon was “showing his true liberal colors” by supporting a “tax increase” when he annexed that land. I guess Brogdon was just being a hypocrite when he authored the “Tax Payers Bill of Rights.”

Such an argument is laughable and should be treated as such.

[I'll endeavor to post more a little later in the week.]

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Tulsa County Municipal Tax Rates

The City Councils of Glenpool and Bixby made major shows this week of supporting the County on the issue of Tulsa annexing the land upon which the Fairgrounds sits. Was that neighborly?

How long ago was it that I and some of my fellow Tulsa city councilors were ripped apart by the Tulsa World opinionistas for questioning Tulsa's water policy that benefits the suburbs to the detriment of the city?

However, before I begin to waller in bitterness of the lack of consistency in the World's editorial policy, let simply point out that Glenpool and Bixby, have very little standing as the "tax payer's friend." Below, I present to you, the various sales tax rates of the various municipalities in Tulsa County. Judge for yourself which city council's are kindest to their citizens when it comes to taxation.
Glenpool...........(4.0 cents)
Sapulpa.............(4.0 cents)
Bixby.................(3.5 cents)
Sand Springs....(3.5 cents)
Tulsa.................(3.0 cents)
Owasso.............(3.0 cents)
Sperry..............(3.0 cents)
Broken Arrow..(3.0 cents)
Skiatook............(3.0 cents)

Makes one wonder how these communities, with their exploding tax bases, can attempt to begrudge Tulsa, with its shrinking tax base, what little incremental tax revenue Tulsa would realize from annexation.

As for those residents of Bixby and Glenpool who are opposed to higher sales taxes, maybe you should look for new representation on your respective city councils.

Will The Real Tax Champions Please Stand Up?

A Challenge to Our Three Republican County Commissioners

I am working on a much longer entry that will go into depth on many of the FAQs regarding annextation. However, I want to note the rhetoric that is being "liberally" bandied about as to whom are the true "conservatives" on the issue of annexation? I have tried to refrain from such simplistic arguments, because they are too often the tool of those who don't want to put much thought into what is, without a doubt, a very complex issue.

However, let me issue a challenge.

We have three county commissioners, all of whom are Republican, and are claiming to be the tax payer's friends. Here's my challenge.

If you are truly interested in the good of the taxpayers and all of the municipalities in your respective districts, pass a resolution stating your intent to not put the "Four to Fix the County" tax back up for renewal when it lapses in 2011.

I know some of you won't be there then, but such a resolution would become a natural campaign issue. Conservative voters could then determine, before renewal time, if they want a Republican candidate (incumbent or not) who openly supports renewal (a tax hike?).

The commissioners could also support the transfer of some or all of the 3 mils of ad valorem tax that law allows to be transferred to Tulsa, which would go a long way to help get the city through its current operations crisis, before the legislature and the current administration go to the extreme of creating a Fire Protection District that would raise Tulsan's property taxes by as many at 7 mils.

Do one or both of these two actions and I might believe your anti-annexation rhetoric.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Mayor Sending Staff to Tout Tax Increase

Mayor Taylor has begun her behind the scenes full-court press to develop support within the City Council for her proposed property tax hike to pay for fire safety.

"Herronner" has instructed policy staffer, Dr. Monica Barczak, to meet with the various counilors to edify them as to why a Fire Protection District in Tulsa is "critically" needed by the city. With a Republican majority on the council, one would normally assume passage of a significant property tax increase would be unlikely, but this council has seemingly preferred commity and decorum over ideology.

Word is, the Fire Protection District is the brainchild of Deputy Mayor and former City Councilor Tom Baker, who is also a former Tulsa Fire Chief. You know it has to be questioned by conservatives when the Tulsa World has begun to heap praise upon the proposal. The editorial writers recently penned,

"Residents might not like the idea of a new tax, even a very
modest one, but the realities of municipal finance in Oklahoma require that
responsible city leaders take on this challenge."
Here we go again. Support a tax hike supported by the Tulsa World, or face being called "irresponsible."

Should the legislature approve this tax district, Tulsans will not only be faced with increased property taxes for Fire Protection Districts, but are also looking at the likelihood of a property tax hike to fund EMSA shortfalls.

Mayor Taylor, who is rumored to be weighing a campaign soon for either John Sullivan's house seat or Jim Inhofe's senate seat, won't be able to garner enough Republican support in a congressional race to win, unless she gets help now, from Republican office holders. She needs to be able to equally lay the blame for tax hikes under her administration in the laps of republicans.

We'll have to stay tuned to see how many of the GOP councilors fall under the say of Dr. Barczak's lobbying.

Glenpool: Can't Say These Folks Lack a Sense of Humor

The lengths to which the County Commission seem willing to go to prevent the City of Tulsa from annexing the Tulsa Fairgrounds is becoming down right funny.

The latest is an apparent offer by the City Council of Glenpool designed to entice the County Commission to move the Fairgrounds to property just outside of their fair township. I say “apparent offer” because part of me is sure they were snickering when they made it.

Obviously, Commissioner Randi Miller, whose commission district includes Glenpool, is hoping that the fear of losing the fairgrounds to a much smaller city might frighten a Tulsa city councilor or two into backing down on annexation. However, any councilor that takes this seriously is showing his or her self to be unworthy of their office. Here’s why.

The Commission would never move and leave all of those recently spent tax dollars generated from Vision 2025 and Four to Fix the County behind them. Glenpool is trying to shine everyone on that the move could be funded by the sale of all of those buildings, but who would by them? Even if they did buy them, what impact would it have on the big shows that are contracted for the coming years. Can’t happen and everyone knows it.

But even if it could, no commissioner would vote to move the fairgrounds for the simplest of political reasons; there are more voters in Tulsa than there are in Glenpool.

Making such a move at the city’s expense would pretty much end a commissioner’s career. That’s why they would never go for such a move.

As such, one has to wonder why the Tulsa World treated it as a serious story. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Bobby Lorton’s brother-in-law, Hal Salisbury (of The Channels fame) is an active leader with “Friends of the Fairgrounds.” Maybe the Lorton’s are trying to help their neighbor, Kathy Taylor out of a no win, political jam.

Either way, you have to admit it. The folks in Glenpool have a delicious sense of humor.