STILLWATER, Okla. — Property owners in Payne County might have to scramble to pay their property taxes before the end of the year. It’s a situation that could have a larger impact on taxpayers who itemize their tax returns and deduct property taxes.
County Treasurer Carla Manning says she is planning to send tax statements out as soon as she can but she doesn’t have the finalized tax roll needed to do that.
The tax roll is a total of the assessed value of all taxable property in the county. It is prepared by the County Assessor and the County Treasurer generates ad valorem or property tax bills based on those figures.
There have been several delays this year that held up preparation of the final tax roll for Payne County.
There was a lag in getting necessary numbers from Logan County earlier in the year, which Manning at the time said could delay preparation of the county’s final tax roll figures and push the mailing of tax bills to late November.
Now county officials say there are issues with totals from Stillwater Public School and the City of Stillwater.
Payne County Assessor James Cowan issued a statement on Monday that said the county’s 2019 tax roll is being held up by the City of Stillwater and Stillwater Public Schools.
Cowan said the budgets for the two taxing entities were rejected by the State Auditor and Inspector’s Office and he cannot deliver the tax roll data to the Treasurer’s office until they have been approved.
But the operating budget adopted by the City of Stillwater last summer isn’t the problem, City Manager Norman McNickle said. It’s actually the City’s iteration of the tax base for Stillwater.
It all goes back to the controversial Tax Increment Financing district created by the City of Stillwater last year over the objection of officials from Meridian Technology Center and Payne County, who said it would divert tax revenues they would otherwise have collected to a development incentive fund controlled by the city.
But state statute allows municipalities to create TIF districts that capture growth in property tax revenue for specific uses and challenges to the TIF, including an initiative petition launched by a citizens group, failed.
City officials have since amended the rules under which the TIF operates to give the county and MTC the ability to collect future growth in tax revenue on several large student apartment complexes near the Oklahoma State University campus. Revenue from the apartments had been one of the major points of contention cited by county and MTC officials.
McNickle says the City of Stillwater’s tax valuation is about $300 million for the entire area within the city limits. The TIF district, which extends south and east of the OSU campus, touching Hall of Fame Avenue to the north and extending south through downtown Stillwater, had a valuation of $27 million certified by Cowan in 2018.
The TIF district was part of the area revalued by the Assessor’s office last year and it now has an assessed value of $30 million.
McNickle said city officials asked the county to pull the $3 million in revenue growth out of the valuation and make those funds available for the TIF. He says Cowan hasn't done that.
Both Cowan and Manning say the Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector’s Office has rejected the city’s figures, as well as figures submitted by Stillwater Public Schools. McNickle said the school district used the same methodology the city used.
Manning said she anticipated the school’s numbers would not affect taxes. But county officials are telling SPS and the City of Stillwater they must make changes then submit revised figures to the Payne County Excise Board for approval.
McNickle said the City was taken by surprise when it recently learned about the rejection of its figures and he believes state statute supports its position.
“We do have a disagreement on interpretation of the law,” he said. “We have provided information to both the Oklahoma Tax Commission and the county. We provided these figures in August and were surprised to not be informed until Nov. 21. We want a quick resolution for the taxpayers.”
Manning outlined the process for approving the taxing entities’ iterations: Once approved by the excise board, the budget must be submitted to the Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector’s Office for approval with a protest period of 10 days. The approved numbers are then be sent to the county assessor’s office where a new tax roll is created. The tax roll is then sent to the treasurer’s office and tax statements will be mailed to Payne County taxpayers.
Manning told the News Press tax bills could arrive around Christmas. They are due by December 31. Taxpayers who pay one-half of their balance by the end of December can then pay the remaining half by March 31.
People who own taxable property in Payne County should prepare themselves by budgeting for those taxes and having funds available to pay them, Manning said. She anticipates most tax bills in the county should be comparable to the amount paid in 2018.
The exception is in the Perkins school district where taxes for 2019 will be higher than taxes paid in 2018.