Tulsa City Hall: February 2007 Archives

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.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa City Hall category from February 2007.

Tulsa City Hall: December 2006 is the previous archive.

Tulsa City Hall: March 2007 is the next archive.

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