County Commission Wants Stadium Tax Exemption

Tuesday, February 17th 2009, 6:08 pm
By: News On 6

By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The Tulsa County Jail is at the center of another fight between the city and the county.  This time it's over the downtown tax assessment needed to finance the new Drillers Stadium.  The county says it is exploring ways to get an exemption for some of its property.

The Tulsa County Commission held a closed door meeting on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of only partially paying the stadium tax.  Ultimately, it comes down to the building that's been a major source of contention between the two sides.

"How are the county properties, the jail particularly, how will we benefit from this assessment?" said Tulsa County Chief Deputy Terry Simonson.

Tulsa County owns 11 different downtown properties.  All of them are subject to the new assessment to pay for the ballpark.  It increases taxes by seven cents a square foot.

The biggest building and the biggest burden is the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center.  Simonson says there's no benefit to the county to pay a tax on the jail.

"Property value go up? Probably not. We won't sell hot dogs. We won't be fielding a team.  We don't sell anything," said Tulsa County Chief Deputy Terry Simonson.

County sources tell The News On 6 the Stadium Improvement District would increase taxes 10-fold starting in July.   Some board members say it's unfair they have to foot the tax on buildings jointly used by the city.

"Even if the city was the outright owner of the jail, then the city would have to pay the assessment," said City of Tulsa Assistant Attorney Linda Redemann.

The Tulsa City Attorney's Office says the time to legally challenge the assessment is over.  Plus, they point out that city-owned buildings have to play ball too and pay the tax.

"City Hall, the BOK Center, the Tulsa Convention Center, and any properties owned by the city that are within the IDL," said City of Tulsa Assistant Attorney Linda Redemann.         

Terry Simonson says the executive session is the first of many meetings to map out a plan.  He says there's one way the county can avoid paying the full assessment.

"You can come to the city council with an argument that says we don't believe we have to pay some of it, or all of it. And, I think that's what's going to happen between now and July first," said Tulsa County Chief Deputy Terry Simonson.

The Tulsa County Commission says they aren't challenging the legality of the downtown assessment, but Simonson says they have every right to explore different payment options before it's too late.