Tulsa City Council Opposes Property Tax Change

Thursday, April 7th 2011, 11:42 pm
By: News On 6

Emory Bryan, News on 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- The Tulsa City Council voted to oppose a state legislative move that could let municipalities tap property tax surpluses for uses other than their original purpose.

After more than an hour of discussion, the Mayor and his Chief of Staff were unable to persuade the Tulsa City Council to support House Bill 1992. The legislation is currently on hold at the Oklahoma State Legislature. The council approved a resolution opposing the bill.

The legislation would loosen rules on when a city can access money in "sinking funds" which are accounts filled by property taxes used to pay legal judgments against the City.

In certain cases, there is money left after the judgments are paid, which is rolled over into the next year. The legislation would allow cities to use the extra cash for one-time expenses.

Several city councilors described it as an indirect tax increase, since the rollover money would otherwise decrease the tax liability in the following year. Councilor Roscoe Turner called it a "hair-brained scheme."

Mayor Dewey Bartlett said "I would not support anything that would lead to a tax increase" and said the reserve funds are not really property taxes, but instead premiums paid by bond companies that end up in the accounts with no purpose.

The Mayor's Chief of Staff, Terry Simonson, said Tulsa currently at least $600,000 dollars in that category within the sinking fund. He said the leftover funds are not typical and the funds could not be accessed without Council approval.

The legislation is state House Bill 1992. 

Read a summary of the bill after he was introduced back in mid-March.