Downtown Funnel – Street package tilted heavily toward Downtown Tulsa
A study of the projects in the Nov. 12 proposed street package shows that a great portion of those funds will go for Downtown projects or streets adjacent to Downtown.
Former City Councilor Jim Mautino said he will vote no on the two propositions on the Nov. 12 ballot and one of his reasons is that imbalance.
Should Tulsa voters approve a tax increase for streets on Nov. 12, the big winners will be the residents of Council District 4, represented by Councilor Blake Ewing.
That Downtown/Midtown district will get $112,182, 500.00 in street work – more than four times the money allotted for work in District 6, represented by Councilor Byron Steele.
Proposition No. 3 on the ballot is for street and bridge construction and repair. It would authorize city officials to borrow (through bonds) $563,700,000.00. That money would be paid back through increased property taxes through 2021.
Here is a breakdown by district:
$112,182,500.00 – District 4
Downtown, Blake Ewing
$85,851,250.00 – District 8
South, Phil Lakin
$73,551,250.00 – District 1
North, Jack Henderson
$70,278,750.00 – District 3
Midtown, David Patrick
$55,558,750.00 – District 9
Midtown, Brookside, G.T. Bynum
$47,545,000.00 – District 2
Southwest, Jeannie Cue
$43,825,000.00 – District 5
East, Central, Karen Gilbert
$35,267,500.00 – District 7
Southeast, Arianna Moore
$26,415,000.00 – District 6
East, Byron Steele
Ewing represents District 4 which includes the Inner Dispersal Loop Downtown. Mautino said $17,000,000.00 extra will be designated for work within the IDL with the funds being taken equally from all nine districts.
“That’s roughly $2,000,000.00 a district,” Mautino said. “What’s the deal?”
In the past, the council was careful to spread the money more evenly through parts of the city, Mautino said. “Essentially, to pass these things, they try to keep the amount of money for each district close,” Mautino said.”It never really was that close. This time, they aren’t even making a pretense of it because we four council districts (4, 8, 1, 3) have most of the money.”
Mautino said that even though District 1 doesn’t cover Downtown, much of the money designated for North Tulsa is on the verge of Downtown. The same is true for the money designed for District 3 (Midtown), which has Downtown on its western edge. Likewise, most of the money in District 2 (West Tulsa) is toward Downtown.
District 9 (Midtown and Brookside) will also have projects in proximity to Downtown.
“There is only $26 million for the whole District 6 (East Tulsa),” Mautino said. “And District 8 (South Tulsa) has $83 million. One street alone (Yale Avenue from 81st to 91st streets) has $31 million – more than the whole district in East Tulsa.
“Districts 5 (East Tulsa), 6 (East Tulsa) and 7 (Southeast Tulsa) are not going to get the money that the other districts got. Most of the money is Downtown.”
If approved by voters, Tulsa will spend $371,507,000.00 on streets and most of that is in the area of Downtown, Mautino said.
Had a plan been drawn like this when Mautino was on the council (2006), he said his fellow councilors would rejected it immediately.
Mautino said the current crop of councilors are not “fighting for their districts.”
“Most of the councilors now were put in office by the BizPac (chamber political action committee),” Mautino said. “Businessmen got together and said they were going to control who is on the council. BizPac is very prominent in getting the government we have now, including Mayor Bartlett. Bartlett and Kathy Taylor are cut out of the same cloth. They have an agenda.”
Mautino thinks proponents of the tax increases see confusion among voters as an advantage. “It’s a confusing thing,” said Mautino. “It allows them to mix and match and move things around.”
In 2008, Tulsans approved two propositions which merged the 2005 general obligation bond ($250,000,000.00) and the 2006 Third Penny sales tax ($464,000,000.00) and the 2008 ($250,000,000.00-plus). “When you add them all together, that’s $1,390,000,000.00,” Mautino said. “They reason they did that was so that they could merge 2005, 2006 and 2008 at the time that they wanted to do mostly work in Downtown, like streets around the arena.”
As a consequence, there are still 2005 projects today that are incomplete, Mautino said. One project in District 6, which Mautino represented, was approved in 2005 but work just began in October of 2013. “The street has been completely blocked between 145th and 161st east avenues,” Mautino said. “There is very little work going on.”
Tulsa uses basically four contractors who do street work, Mautino said.
Mautino said Bartlett has a goal to replace city workers with private contractors and that has worked hard to accomplish that.
When he was on the council, Mautino asked an employee to find out how much money was in that 2008 tax increase for streets and then calculate how much street repair work could be done with a city crew rather than contractors. “He researched it and with that money, over five years, with two city crews could mill and overlay every street in the city of Tulsa,” Mautino said.
Mautino said all of the contractors have ties to the chamber of commerce. “The chamber is going to help its members,” Mautino said. “The chamber is like a big union. They are going to get all these projects backed up, not only for the contractors but the banks, too, because they make the loans. And the bondsmen. That’s absolutely true.”
Mautino said there is a lot of work left to do in the two 2008 propositions but the city wants to “pile up some more projects” with indefinite completion projections.
If the bond package passes, it will increase the current property tax millage to 20 mills and then rise to 22 mills by 2017 or 2018. A mill is $1 per $1,000 of a property’s net assessed value.
Tulsa has the highest property taxes in the State of Oklahoma. According to the city’s website, the annual property tax for a house valued at $100,000 would be $200.00 initially and then rise to $220.00. The City of Tulsa typically receives about 16 percent of the total property tax revenues.
Tulsa has a 3.167-cent sales tax, effective through June 20, 2014. Two cents goes to the general fund and 1.167-cent goes to capital improvements. Proposition No. 2 on the November 12 ballot would approve a 1.1-cent sales tax increase because the Third Penny is set to retire unless approved by a vote of the people Nov. 12.
The Third Penny was first approved in 1980 as a “temporary tax.”