Your headline DRAINAGE FEE PROPOSAL FLOODED WITH QUESTIONS couldn’t be more accurate.
At the June 6th city council meeting it was clearly explained that this fee is more accurately defined as a tax. “[City manager] Guard responded that the fee is not a tax.” Of course, he has to say that because a tax would require a vote of the people and they are desperately trying to avoid that.
As the Missouri Supreme Court said when presented with their own drainage tax/fee… ["A tax by any other name remains a tax. It cannot be transformed into a user fee by adept packaging, any more than a zoologist can transform a horse into a zebra with a bucket of paint," Judge Paul Wilson wrote in the 6-0 opinion... "Here, no matter how many stripes MSD paints on it, the stormwater user charge is not a user fee."]
Alan Guard tells us a couple days ago that All Government Entities and even USAO will be exempt from participating in solving our drainage issues. Guard’s reason is, "There is no point in moving tax money from one pocket to another."
How exactly do they classify USAO’s tuition revenue as tax money in Chickasha’s pocket? How are state appropriated funds provided to USAO via the State Regents for Higher Education counted as tax money in our pocket? How is it that Guard sees the Grady County Hospital or the Grady County Fairgrounds fund balances as being money in the city’s pocket? Or Vo-tech funds for that matter?
Here’s the answer – he doesn’t. They all know better. But they do want to handpick winners and losers. But at least they are finally admitting it is a tax. Not only that, they’re saying shuffling money from pocket to pocket (fund to fund) is not a foreign concept.
The fact is that if this is a tax, then of course tax exempt entities are exempt from the tax. And we vote on it. But if it is a fee, like they occasionally claim, then NO property is exempt from the fee unless they do not use the utility.
Norman is struggling with this very issue and their Finance Director said last month “the city would pay its fair share for its buildings… Various city entities would pay the stormwater utility bill just as they pay water and sewer bills… It's a payment for services rendered.”
Incidentally, Norman’s average monthly rate is going to be $5.75, Tulsa’s charging $5.43, and the median rate for all cities in Oklahoma with a similar tax is $3.50… Chickasha is going for $7.00
Bottom line is legitimate transparency doesn’t exist within ‘the city of Chickasha’. I know that may sound harsh, but let me explain a little bit.
The city has 10’s of millions of dollars available right now. But they budget to spend $1.3 Million on landscaping, park pavilions, and tree removal and then say our firemen need to worry about their jobs because they are a few thousand short. They want to spend nearly a half Million on a lake in Caddo County and then say we won’t have enough cops because they are broke. They push to spend $600,000 on a privately owned bowling alley and then say drainage will suffer from lack of funds.
It seems to me they are creating an artificial ‘public safety emergency’ and then saying they need an ‘emergency public safety tax’. They are spending essential funds on nonessential projects and then claiming to be broke. It feels like they’re moving money from one pocket to another like a game of three-card-monte only to confuse us.
Good news is this – every day there are more and more of us who are tired of watching the city “paint the horse and call it a zebra”.