City of Stillwater Mayor and Councilors,
Let me first thank you for your service to the City of Stillwater, and the citizens that you represent. I myself am a lifelong Stillwater Resident. As an Elected Payne County Official, I understand the demands, and the responsibilities, that you face with your decisions as the elected representatives of your constituents.
I am greatly concerned with the approaching decision that the city will face regarding the establishment of a T.I.F. district. A decision that I am certain you have weighed with great care, and understanding of fact, law, and impact to not only the city, but to the other governmental, educational, and health taxing entities affected by that district regarding critical funding.
As an official, the first thing I do when weighing a decision of my office is:
1. Does it follow the intent and letter of the law? In review of the statutes the criteria you must adhere to regarding the outline, and creation of a T.I.F. district is an area of unproductive, undeveloped, underdeveloped, or blighted. The legislative guideline also goes further to state that the tools of this act not be used in areas where investment, development, and economic growth would have occurred anyway, and that the governing body take care to exclude areas that do not meet these criteria. As the recorder of the records of land sales, and ownership, I can attest that this area is under economic growth, and that parcels of property have indeed changed ownership hands, for what is surely a move towards economic development to this area, and future growth. As written, and identified in the current plan presented to the council the outline of your proposed T.I.F. district in my opinion does not fall within the legal qualifications. Therefore, it is your duty as an elected official under your oath, and code of ethics to uphold the intent, and written letter of the law. The plan you have before you does not do that in its current written form as approved by the review committee.
Also under the guidelines of the legislations the city must establish the “projects” that will be accomplished under the capture of the revenue of the T.I.F. district. The current plan in front of the city does not establish those projects, but only vague statements of economic development?
2. Does it benefit all concerned, does it trespass on others? All entities in the proposed T.I.F. district are taxing entities that have seen a decrease in revenue due to the decline in sales tax, state funding, county funding, and municipal funding. The City of Stillwater is not unique in their struggle, but the only one who has considered capturing revenue from other entities, causing hardship to the community they say they will enhance, but will only decrease the services that will be offered to the citizens on a larger scale. The county, schools, and health department do not have any other mechanism to create more revenue other than sales tax beyond the statutory percentages of ad valorem property tax that we currently operate with supporting all areas, services, and functions of county government including, roads and bridges, record recording, court systems, mediation services, assessments of property, tax collection, expo center, extension services, elections, health departments, rural and municipal fire departments, emergency management, environmental enforcement, community service programing, and law enforcement. We do not have utilities, our fees are regulated by state law, and our sales tax is dedicated to the “projects” that we have defined in the passage of the question, and within the legal spectrum of the law. So, the T.I.F. district will decrease the revenue, and in turn decrease the services of the other taxing entities within it, causing hardship not only to the citizens in Stillwater, but to all the municipalizes that we serve throughout the county, and the health department services, and vital human protection under law enforcement.
So, I challenge you to consider what is before you, its intent, its legality, and to challenge yourself to answer these questions I ask. I also apply the 4 Way Test that as a Rotarian I feel applies in everyday life. 1. Is it the truth? 2. Is it fair to all concerned? 3. Will it build goodwill and better friendship? 4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned? Will it? Or will it be beneficial to only the City of Stillwater while causing great loss to other entities that must adapt to an even greater loss in revenue, and to cut even more services than we already have?
We all strive for economic growth, and enhancement to our services, and living environment. I appreciate your consideration and time in listening to me as an official, and citizen. County government has a much larger jurisdiction than the city, and we as officials owe it to our constituents, not only in Stillwater, but across the whole county to advocate for their needs, rights, and wellbeing through the many services with offer, and areas that we serve, and are responsible for.
Glenna Craig is the County Clerk for Payne County. Reach her at email@example.com.