Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Public Service Property Tax Ration Lowered

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Public Service Property Tax Ration Lowered

Article excerpt

By Lou Anne Wolfe

Journal Record Staff Reporter

The property tax assessment ratio for public service corporation property was lowered from 25.15 percent to 24 percent for the 1992 tax year by the State Board of Equalization on Thursday.

The board voted 4-2 for the 24 percent figure, which Oklahoma Tax Commission staff members said would be revenue neutral when the entire state is considered. Gov. David Walters was a vocal opponent of the figure, saying he wanted more time to study the impacts on individual counties. Agriculture Secretary Gary Sherrer also voted against the figure.

By lowering the ratio to 24 percent, the total assessed property value will decline in 42 of Oklahoma's 77 counties for the 1992 tax year, compared with 1991. For 32 of them, however, the loss will amount to less than 5 percent, according to a tax commission attorney.

Canadian County is predicted to be the biggest loser. Its property value is predicted to drop by 15.6 percent, for a loss of about $600,000 in tax revenue, the attorney said.

Some public service corporations, including energy pipeline companies, paid their taxes under protest in 1990 and 1991. They argue that the state discriminates against them, because airline and railroad property is assessed at a different rate, using a different formula. Airline and railroad property also is considered public service property.

The rate for airlines and railroads will be slightly higher this year than 1991, but the gap remains.

The board voted to approve an 11.99 percent assessment ratio for airline and railroad property, up from 11.67 percent for the 1991 tax year. The figure is calculated using the aggregate locally assessed commercialdustrial property rate.

Marvin York, attorney for 10 energy pipeline companies, said action by the board narrowed the tax rate gap a little bit and increased his comfort level. But that doesn't mean his clients won't file tax protest lawsuits, he said.

"We're still being discriminated against, but at least it's a move in the right direction," York said. Prior to the vote, he told the board he would rather the ratio be lowered by 1.5 percent than by the 1.15 percent which was approved.

York said the Oklahoma Constitution says all public service property must be treated equally, and he was unsure what his clients would do in response to the 24 percent ratio.

For the 1990 tax year, the rate for the pipelines, and all other public service corporation property not owned by railroads and airlines, was 26.15 percent. This was lowered to 25.15 percent for the 1991 tax year.

The 24 percent figure for 1992 was picked by the board because the tax commission attorney said it would be revenue neutral.

When the corporations pay their taxes under protest, the money is held in escrow, out of the reach of the recipient schools and counties, until the protest is settled. …

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