Tulsa Education: May 2008 Archives

Congratulations to Tulsa County voters: KTUL is reporting that the TCC bond issue failed 45-55 and the TCC permanent property tax increase failed 43-57.

And congratulations to John Tyler Hammons. The 19-year-old OU freshman poli-sci major won a runoff tonight to become Mayor of Muskogee, defeating the incumbent a former mayor in a landslide. (Hammons said he would transfer from OU to nearby NSU if elected.) Hammons will also be a delegate to the Republican National Convention; he was on the slate approved at the May 3 state convention.

A reaction from "Kiah" to the TCC tax defeat at TulsaNow's public forum:

Can we now officially retire the Chamber/World's cynical approach to local governance (i.e. hide the ball; the fewer voters the better, and the less they know, the better -- in short, don't worry your pretty little head about it, let the grown-ups handle the details . . . .)

UPDATE: Thanks to Jamison Faught for the correct description of Hammons's opponent -- the incumbent, Wren Stratton, didn't seek another term; Hammons defeated a three-term former mayor, Herschel McBride. The final vote total was Hammons 3,703, McBride 1,616.

Tulsa County voters will decide today whether to grant Tulsa Community College a permanent property tax increase of 1.7 mills for operations and maintenance (a 23% increase over the current level of 7.21 mills) and, in a separate proposition, a temporary seven-year property tax increase of about 3.1 mills to fund a $76 million bond issue for construction and remodeling.

My column in this week's Urban Tulsa Weekly urges a vote against the two propositions. In short, TCC is in good shape and has plenty of money to accomplish its mission. Our priority ought to be fixing what needs the most improvement: Our city's grade "D" streets. We can't afford to let other taxing entities use up the public's limited tax tolerance. There isn't an overall local budget authority that oversees the City, the schools, the County, TCC, and other local government entities. It's up to us as taxpayers and voters to set funding priorities among these various agencies and governments.

You'll find more links about the proposed TCC tax hike in this earlier blog entry. To read the other side of the issue, you'll find a pro-tax-increase website at tccworks.com. You'll find much more about TCC and the tax vote at Stan Geiger's website, including this recitation of all the tax increases we've been asked to approve over the last 8 years.

All Tulsa County polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

MORE: No surprise: The Tulsa Whirled never met a tax it didn't endorse. I love the way they minimize the tax increase by putting it in terms of dollars per month. They don't tell you that it means a 67% increase in TCC's take from he taxpayers. Hardly "modest property tax increases." Of course, the Whirled would never concede that the other side might have a point:

They are anti-tax, antigrowth, anti-prosperity and anti-community. They don't care what they tear down, so long as they don't have to pay for the conveniences of living in a civilized society. They've already got theirs and could care less about the other guy.

Who's tearing down? Most "antis" on this tax are generally pleased with TCC; they just think TCC has enough money to do its job, and there are better places to allocate that additional millage.

The Whirled can't defend the tax increase on the merits, so they have to resort to propaganda techniques. Their argument boils down to: "You don't want to be like one of those nasty, angry anti-taxers. You want to be progressive and foresighted, like us."

The Whirled would have more credibility if they at least conceded that there are valid concerns on the other side of the issue. If once in a while, they called a proposed tax increase "ill-timed" or "larger than necessary," they might make more of an impact when they endorse a tax.

Can anyone think of a tax increase the Whirled has opposed?

BY WAY OF CONTRAST: Oklahoma County is voting on five bond issues today, covering courthouse renovation, a new building for the cooperative extension program, improved record retention facilities, and flood control. The big ticket item is to purchase the old GM plant in Midwest City so that it can be leased and perhaps sold at some future date to the Air Force for Tinker AFB expansion. Room for expansion is a factor weighed by the DoD's Base Realignment and Closure commission. The total property tax increase will be 1.521 mills over 15 years. (Via Dustbury.

Tulsa County has been using sales tax for these kinds of projects; it's interesting that Oklahoma County has no county sales tax, leaving sales tax for the cities to use as they see fit.

Stan Geiger has a few blog entries up about next Tuesday's vote on Tulsa Community College's proposed property tax increases. (See my previous entry for links to my column on the topic and sources for additional information.) Here are some excerpts from Stan's latest -- click the links to read the whole thing:

TCC Launches Media Assault:

TCC is pushing the tired notion that more tax money for higher education equals a stronger local economy. Man, if only that were true.

The Tulsa area is up to its butt in public-subsidized higher education. TCC has 4 campuses---plus an office building for executives. We have an OU-Tulsa, an OSU-Tulsa and a Langston-Tulsa. We have a Northeastern State campus in Broken Arrow. And what was once a junior college in Claremore is now a 4-year school called Rogers State University under the auspices of the OU Board of Regents.

If pouring tax money into higher education resulted in economic prosperity, Tulsa would be a freakin' boomtown.

The Hits Keep Coming:

Well, 50 bucks a year might not be a big deal to educators. But to an average working person that has a real job out in the real world and is facing wolves at the door, 50 bucks is a lot of money.

Property Tax: The Ever Growing Tax, referring to an earlier comment by XonOFF, who notes that TCC currently gets almost as much property tax in a year as the City of Tulsa, and if the tax increase and bond issue pass, TCC will receive more property tax annually than Tulsa County government. Stan relates some budget research he did 10 years ago:

In 1997, TCC's budget figures showed property tax revenue of $15.3 million. Reports say the last permanent millage increase voted to TCC came in 1994. So in a 10-year span of time, in the absence of any increase in the tax rate, the amount of property tax revenue flowing into TCC doubled.

The property tax is not a static tax. It grows. If you vote an increase today, whatever it is, 50 bucks, a hundred bucks or whatever, it will be a bigger tax increase next year, and the year after that and the year after that.

Tulsa Chiggers has some TCC facts for voters to weigh:

Did you know that space is available, especially at the Northeast Campus? ...

Did you know that TCC has been operating with a surplus for years?

TulsaNow's public forum has a thread about the TCC tax hike, and it's interesting to see that many regulars there who usually support tax increases are balking at this one.
Commenter "waterboy" writes:

I received one of their calls last night. For the first time in my life I am voting against an education proposal.

TCC is a poor administrator of tax dollars [in my opinion].

I believe they practice age discrimination.

Their human resources dept. is inept. and unresponsive. (I know this has become common throughout the business world but this is tax dollars)

They cannibalized the areas surrounding the downtown facility for asphalt lots.

Wage disparity is embarrassingly out of balance. Read their classified ads.

I told the caller that at some point TCC will have its attitude with the public reflected back towards them. For me, this is that point.

Commenter "swake" replies:

I also am voting no for the first time.

TCC is a poor downtown citizen, works to block 1st and 2nd year classes from being offered by OSU and OU Tulsa and isn't the higher education entity that we need to work to grow.

This week in Urban Tulsa Weekly, I preview next Tuesday's special election for a permanent property tax increase and a temporary property tax increase tied to a $76 million general obligation bond issue for Tulsa Community College. All of Tulsa County will go to the polls. If approved, the permanent millage rate would increase from 7.21 mills to 8.91 mills, with a temporary seven-year boost to about 12.2 mills while the bonds are being repaid. In the column, I make the case that, in the absence of a body with authority over all the different local taxing entities, it's up to us, the voters of Tulsa County, to set priorities among the requests from these various agencies.

Here are links to some of my research helps:

TCC page about the May 13 proposals. (Here are direct links to their fact sheet, publicity piece, and newsletter.)

Sample ballot for the May 13 TCC election

Property tax apportionment in Tulsa County

An explanation of the color-of-money problem from the Defense Department perspective

The following reports cover all the schools in the Oklahoma higher ed system -- research universities, regional universities, and community colleges, among other institutions:

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa Education category from May 2008.

Tulsa Education: April 2008 is the previous archive.

Tulsa Education: July 2008 is the next archive.

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