Vision2 supporters to voice proposal to Tulsa County Commission
BY WAYNE GREENE & KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writers
Thursday, August 09, 2012
8/09/12 at 2:34 PM
Related story: Team effort led to Vision 2025 initiative.
A $747.9 million, 13-year plan to extend Tulsa County's 0.6 percent Vision 2025 sales tax will be rolled out Thursday.
The proposed extension would start when the current tax expires, Jan. 1, 2017, and last through Dec. 31, 2029.
Vision 2025 has been a popular and obviously successful effort to re-invigorate the local economy, and it is time to extend that success into the future, said Don Walker, cochairman of the Vision2 campaign.
"We want to keep a great thing going," said Walker, who is president and CEO of Arvest Bank.
On Thursday, backers of the plan will make their initial pitch for the Tulsa County Commission to put the two-part plan before voters Nov. 6.
The first element of the Vision2 plan is about $386 million for economic development - improvements on key industrial sites at Tulsa International Airport and a $50 million closing fund to offer final incentives to companies considering locating in the area.
A second $361.9 million package would go to quality-of-life improvements to be selected by the county and each of its cities.
The quality-of-life money would be apportioned to the various communities according to population. Specific projects will grow from public discussions and should be determined well in advance of a vote on the package, campaign organizers said.
County commissioners aren't expected to approve putting the issue before voters Thursday but might set a date for a future vote. To get a tax extension package on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, language must be delivered to local election officials no later than Aug. 22.
Walker said local business leaders started work on a project-oriented Vision 2025 extension about a year ago, but the plans were substantially reshaped and given more urgency when American Airlines filed for bankruptcy in November, putting 2,100 Tulsa jobs at risk.
"Our priorities changed," Walker said. "Aerospace jobs have been key to Tulsa over the past 70 years, just like the energy business has been. We believe that it is so important that we could not ignore investing in these properties at the Tulsa industrial-airport complex."
Manufacturing facilities inside the airport complex account for more than 11,000 jobs. American Airlines alone has an annual payroll of $580 million a year, Walker said.
Maintaining those jobs will require substantial improvements to three city-owned buildings that house facilities for American Airlines, Spirit Aero Systems and IC Bus, backers of the campaign said.
Some $122 million of the economic development money is slated for facility and infrastructure requirements, including heating and air-conditioning, roof maintenance, electrical upgrades, equipment upgrades and many other improvements.
Another $132.4 million would be spent on upgrading and replacing airport industrial facilities, including a $60 million next generation engine test cell for Boeing 787 airplanes and several other improvements.
The economic development issue also would set aside $50 million to be used for incentives for employers planning to locate in the Tulsa area.
Cities competing with Tulsa for employers already have similar, oftentimes larger incentive funds, and the money is needed to deal with last-minute incentives needed to seal major deals, proponents of the plan say.
A public oversight committee of county elected officials and three regional mayors would approve any expenditures from the closing fund, Walker said.
A separate oversight committee including three other regional mayors would sign off on other economic development spending from the tax extension.
The second half of the proposed package would be used on a variety of public works projects with the money divided between the county and local cities on the basis of population, Walker said.
Cities would divide about $257.92 million proportionately by population with another $104 million going to Tulsa County. The county's money includes $12 million in bonding costs for the entire package, Walker said.
Those numbers would grow or shrink if the local retail economy grows or shrinks, he said.
Local officials have said they are looking at a variety of possible uses for the money, including dams to improve the Arkansas River, road and bridge projects, levy improvements, a new Tulsa County juvenile justice facility and family court, and many other ideas.
Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said he supports the Vision2 proposal, calling it "a great opportunity for us to develop infrastructure that supports economic development for this city for several decades to come."
At the top of the city's list of proposed projects are improvements on the Zink Dam along the Arkansas River and completion of the Gilcrease Expressway, Bartlett said.
With federal and state funding for Zink Dam improvements in limbo, it is essential that the city commit to completing the project, he said.
"We have got to fund the river in so far as maintaining the dam, improving the dam, making it bigger and adding the recreational facilities," Bartlett said. "That, to me, is going to be a very good example of economic development because it really sets the stage for development along the river."
The same big investment is needed in west Tulsa, where land sits abandoned or undeveloped, in part because of a lack of access, Bartlett said.
"We're the largest city I know of that doesn't have an outer loop," Bartlett said. "I think it will be a great economic development opportunity" for the area.
County Commissioner Karen Keith said she plans to push for funding to build a juvenile justice and family court facility.
Approx. division of Vision2 quality-of-life funding
|Bonding costs, interest
Original Print Headline: Vision2 backers to unveil proposal
Wayne Greene 918-581-8308
Don Walker: The $747.9 million proposal would be an extension of Vision 2025, a popular effort, said the campaign's co-chairman