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County officials may appeal order to pay Guymon withheld taxes

GUYMON, Okla. (AP) _ Texas County officials may appeal a judge's decision ordering them to pay the city of Guymon more than $300,000 in withheld taxes.

County officials contend that the Panhandle city's tax increment district takes away the tax benefits of Seaboard Corp.'s pork processing plant.

District Attorney Don Wood, who represents the county commissioners, said an appeal ``certainly seems like their plan of action.''

District Judge Greg A. Zigler ruled on Friday that county must pay Guymon $307,962 and abide by the rules of the tax increment district in the future.

The city sued the county in May, seeking $448,589 in ad valorem taxes. City officials said the county owes the money because the amount would have been collected in a tax increment district created to provide financial help for opening the Seaboard plant.

The ruling could have an impact statewide because it is one of the few court cases involving this type of financing, said David Petty, the city's attorney.

``I think many communities in the state will be interested because Guymon's results with this type of financing have been phenomenal,'' Petty said.

The Guymon Industrial Authority issued $4.5 million in bonds to help build the plant. According to the increment system, additional ad valorem tax generated by the plant is committed to repay the bond issue, the lawsuit states.

Before Seaboard opened the plant, the abandoned building generated about $11,000 in ad valorem taxes. Last year, the building generated about $459,000. The difference between those two figures should be paid to the city, which in turn will use the money to pay off the bonds, Petty said.

Seaboard still pays the full amount of ad valorem taxes, but the funds are distributed differently, he said.

The tax district will end when the bonds are paid, or within 25 years, whichever comes first, he said.

Zigler's ruling states the Oklahoma Supreme Court already found the method of financing constitutional in a case in 2000.

According to county officials, they never were given a choice in the matter and they contend there are problems with the tax increment financing system. County residents, county commissioners and the school board weren't allowed to vote on the issue, Wood said.

Guymon residents approved a 1-cent sales tax to help pay for the plant's construction, he said.

Zigler states in his ruling the law governing tax increment financing doesn't require ``a vote of the affected taxing entities.'' Instead, a review board, with representatives from the affected entities, creates the district. The review board had a representative from the Texas County Board of Commissioners.

County officials have put aside enough money to pay the city if necessary. Wood said he expects the county will ask Zigler to allow that money to remain in the county coffers unspent pending an appeal.
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