Fairgrounds annexation FAQ: Does the City pay its fair share for use of the county jail?

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Chris Medlock has the beginnings of a list of answers to frequently asked questions regarding the City of Tulsa's proposed annexation of the Tulsa County Fairgrounds. He tackles the following questions:

Q: Is the City taking over the Fairgrounds from the County?
Q: Is the Fairgrounds a “tax free” zone?
Q: Is the 3-cent tax break the major draw for retail activity at the Fairgrounds?
Q: Is annexation akin to raising taxes?

That last one has an interesting answer. Medlock points out that Sen. Randy Brogdon, indisputably the taxpayers' best friend at the State Capitol, was previously Mayor of Owasso, and as Mayor and thus a member of the City Council, he voted to approve numerous annexations, many of them including already developed property which suddenly became subject to city sales tax and millage. Either that means that Randy Brogdon is a tax-raisin' fiend, or else annexation isn't really a tax hike.

Annexation opponents have also asserted that the City of Tulsa gets a free ride on the use of the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center, more colloquially known as the County Jail. In a comment on an earlier entry, County Commissioner Fred Perry wrote: "He [Michael Bates] ignores the fact that the county runs the jail and charges the city nothing (a multi-million dollar value)."

But there's more to that story. First of all, everyone who spends money in Tulsa County, whether within the city limits of Tulsa, in some other municipality, or in the unincorporated areas, pays the 1/4 cent sales tax that funds operation of the jail. Tulsa businesses supply the lion's share of that fund. Everyone who owns property in Tulsa County, whether within the city limits of Tulsa, in some other municipality, or in the unincorporated areas, pays the county millage, part of which goes to fund operation of the jail. Even though the money flows through county government, most of it originates with the economic activity of City of Tulsa residents.

The City of Tulsa also has a contract with the Tulsa County Commission, running until June 30, 2008. In the contract, the City provides the County with the use of the old city jail, on the third floor of the City of Tulsa Police Municipal Courts Building, just west of the courthouse, and the use of the Adult Detention Center on Charles Page Boulevard near Newblock Park. The City also provides a "fully staffed evidence property room" to handle evidence required for district court cases related to City of Tulsa law enforcement. The agreement refers to a separate agreement giving the County use of a facility adjacent to the County's Juvenile Detention Center.

When the contract was executed in 1998, the value of the City of Tulsa's contribution was estimated at $1,862,350. The contract specifies that the "reasonable value" of the City's contribution is equivalent to paying the County for daily housing of 116 municipal prisoners.

In exchange for all of that, plus $1 a year, the County pays to house up to 116 of the City's municipal prisoners. If the monthly average of the daily number of municipal prisoners ever exceeds that number, there is a formula for the City to compensate the County for the excess. But if the number of municipal prisoners is lower than 116, the County does nothing to compensate the City.

Now, not every perp caught by the Tulsa police department is a "municipal prisoner." When someone is arrested on a violation of state law -- homicide, robbery, grand larceny -- that case will be handled through District Court, no matter whether the sheriff, the Tulsa police, the Highway Patrol, or some other authority arrested him. The county jails exist for the purpose of handling such prisoners. (I'm sure someone could find the appropriate cites on oscn.net. I'm too tired right now.)

Municipal prisoners are defined in the contract as "individuals present in the Jail System exclusively as the result of a City of Tulsa misdemeanor charge." If you're convicted of violating one of the laws in the Tulsa's penal code and you haven't also violated a state law, you'd be considered a municipal prisoner. At the time the jail contract was executed, the number of municipal prisoners was less than 80 per day, about a third below the amount considered equivalent to the City's contribution to the system. I am not sure what the current average number of municipal prisoners is.

What would happen if, hypothetically, the County Commission decided to "retaliate" for annexation by terminating the jail agreement with the City?

The County would lose the use of the old city jail would have to find another place to house prisoners awaiting trial in District Court, as the old county jail on the upper floors of the courthouse has been remodeled into offices for the District Attorney. The County would also have to set up a bigger evidence room of its own find other facilities to replace those that the City provides it free of charge. Finally, the County would lose the financial benefit it enjoys when the number of municipal prisoners that the County pays to house drops below the level the City is allowed by virtue of its contribution to the system.

In short, the County would be cutting off its nose to spite its face, especially since annexation would not have a detremental effect on County government. That would also be true if the County were to follow through on threats to move the Fairgrounds out to Glenpool. But that is a post for another day.

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4 Comments

Dan Hicks said:

Michael,

If a property owner does not want to be annexed, the City of Tulsa should not force it upon them. As a county resident who happens to live in the city of Tulsa, I do not want my Tulsa County Fairgrounds annexed by the City of Tulsa. County officials have expressed that they do not want the annexation and from recent news reports it would seem that many other county leaders do not want the fairgrounds annexed.

If this were the City of Tulsa trying to annex a residential neighborhood that did not want to be annexed, I would venture to say that the old Michael Bates we all knew and loved would be siding with the neighborhood. Michael, it is just very hard for me to understand how you of all people can be siding with property grabbers on this issue.

Invoking Randy Brogdon's name does not change the fact that annexation would result in a tax increase and that those of us who make purchases at the County Fairgrounds would bear the burden of that tax increase. I don't want annexation and I resent your efforts to force it upon me.

Michael, My wife Karen and I have never voted to raise taxes on you or your family. I know that you have voted for certain ballot measures which have raised taxes on my family because you have mentioned it on the radio. I believe you voted YES on the original "FOUR TO FIX THE COUNTY." You can rationalize all you want but this annexation is another tax increase on my family and we do not want it.

Let me leave you with a defenition I hope will remind you of the cause we once fought side by side to achieve.

FISCAL CONSERVATISM (also known as Economic Conservatism) is a term used in the United States to refer to economic and political policy that advocates restraint of government expenditures and taxation.

Dan Hicks

Frred Perry said:

Michael: Good job on detailing history of jail agreement between the City and the County. As usual, you have done good research. However, no matter how you cut it, the city has a "sweetheart deal" in the jail agreement and I disagree with your conclusion. For one thing, everybody pays sales tax in the county, not just the City of Tulsa residents. So, these folks are also contributing to the running of the jail. So, it's a "wash" in that area. Time doesn't allow me to get into other details as to why I don't agree with your conclusions but I hope to do so later. Also, for the record, the county never has threatened to retailiate via the upcoming June, 2008 anniversary date for the jail agreement. (At least this county commissioner never has and I don't know of any other county official who has.) Also for the record, the county never has threatened to move to Glenpool. The City of Glenpool, in jest and demonstrate their support for the county and fair board's position agains annexation, invited the county and the Public Trust Authority ("Fair Board") to move the fairgrounds to Glenpool. Of course, everybody knows that is impractical due to the infrastructure and investment in the fairgrounds. I said so publicly, in an interview with KFAQ last Monday, while expressing appreciation to the City of Glenpool City Council for their resolution. The City of Bixby made a similar resolution of support while pointing out that the fairgrounds is an asset that belongs to the entire county, not just the city of Tulsa residents, thereby making annexation inappropriate (and offensive to the outlying towns and cities). Having said all of this, we have committed to the City of Tulsa that we will help "stop the leakage" of sales tax that is being lost for items sold at the fairgrounds and delivered to city of Tulsa residents at their homes or businesses located in the City of Tulsa. (The same will be true as it relates to deliveries made to other cities.)...Fred Perry,Tulsa Co.Commissioner,Dist. 3

Mark Sanders said:

Great job, Michael!

Christie Breedlove said:

If I'm not mistaken recent Vision 2025 reports show that 70% of the sales tax in the county come from Tulsa. That leaves 30% to come from the nine (9) other towns.

While I don't consider Stanley Glanz a spokesman for the county, he did stand up at the council meeting and say he was the chief law enforcement officer in the county and indicated he could take over the TPD. That seems a little over the top.

When I get up in the morning and head to work I don't see much traffic heading out of Tulsa to Broken Arrow, Bixby, or Owasso, I see traffic backed up to get into the city. And I'm sure all of these folks expect the city streets to be clear of snow, or sanded for ice, or free of the potholes that will follow.

There is a big difference between forcing services and fees on someone by annexing their property into a city, and annexing government property for which we already supply services like haz mat, or fire, or when some idiot at the gun show accidentally fires a weapon-EMSA.

Be careful that you don't shoot the goose that laid the golden egg.

Good work Michael on the article.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 26, 2007 10:07 PM.

Mayor calls for river corridor zoning, not an authority was the previous entry in this blog.

Jamal Miftah story on "The 700 Club" is the next entry in this blog.

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