Q. Could you please write a piece on the different ways to finance — G.O. Bonds, CIP projects, annual budgets, and clarify their purpose, as there is confusion on Nextdoor.
A. The short version:
Sales tax and utility revenues make up 86 percent of the City’s funding.
- Sales tax revenue is used to fund general City operations with a portion of it specifically dedicated to economic development and a portion dedicated for capital projects.
- Utility revenues, including from water, wastewater and refuse services, are used to sustain those departments.
Other sources of revenue include:
- General Obligation bond funding — used to fund community projects, some City equipment and facility upgrades.
- Use tax revenue, which comes from purchases made from out-of-state sellers and is rolled into the General Fund.
- Hotel-motel tax revenue, which helps supports local tourism and community center operations
- Franchise fees, which are paid by outside utilities for access to City rights of way
Additionally, a very minimal amount of funding comes from state and federal grants and public trusts. And in terms of strictly financing, the City utilizes special loans for major utility projects, which are repaid through capital fee revenues.
The long version:
Sales Tax and Use tax: Sales tax is by far the most prominent source of funding for the City of Bartlesville. The sales tax in Bartlesville is 8.9 percent. Sales tax receipts are remitted to the State of Oklahoma on a monthly basis. Of the total, the State’s share is 4.5 percent of the total sales tax revenue collected, the City’s is 3.4 percent, and the County’s is 1 percent.
Of the 3.4 percent the City receives, 2.65 percent is put into the City’s General Fund. The General Fund is what funds most City operations/departments, including the two largest departments, police and fire. It also includes other departments such as streets, parks and recreation, engineering, and community development.
One-half of 1 percent of that 3.4 percent is used for Capital Improvement Projects, commonly referred to as the Half-cent CIP tax. Voters decide whether or not to extend this tax every five years. (To date, they have always voted to extend it.) The CIP tax revenue is used to fund capital equipment and projects such as general road repairs, police and other City vehicles, mowers, security lighting and other similar expenditures.
One-quarter of 1 percent of the 3.4 percent total is used for Economic Development. This is referred to as the Quarter-cent ED tax. These are funds associated with the work of the Bartlesville Development Authority. The ED tax pays for BDA expenses and incentive funding to recruit businesses and employees to Bartlesville. The BDA budget must be approved every year by the City Council, and incentive funding must be approved by the council on a case-by-case basis.
Use tax is a relatively new tax that went into effect in January of this year. It’s essentially sales tax that is collected by out-of-state sellers, such as Amazon. These funds go to the General Fund for operations.
For Fiscal Year 2022-23, the City collected the following in sales and use tax revenue:
Sales tax for General Fund (2.65 percent) — $18,114,704
Sales tax for Capital Improvement Projects (0.5 percent) — $3,418,877
Sales tax for Economic Development (0.25 percent) — $1,708,276
Use tax for General Fund — $1,552,104
Enterprise Funds: Enterprise Funds consist of utility revenues and capital fees. In other words, when we pay our utility bills, that money is used to sustain Enterprise Fund departments, which include water, wastewater, and sanitation/refuse collection. Enterprise funding fully sustains these departments, funding everything from salaries to infrastructure, maintenance costs, and upgrades.
For Fiscal Year 2022-23, the City collected the following in Enterprise Fund revenue:
Water — $11,617,111
Wastewater — $6,094,854
Refuse and Recycling — $5,947,540
Other Enterprise departments include the City-owned Bartlesville Airport, Adams Golf course, and swimming pools. While these departments do generate some revenue dollars, they operate at a loss. To sustain these departments and continue these services for citizens, expenditures for these departments are partially funded through transfers from the City’s General Fund.
General Obligation bond funds: Bartlesville voters are likely quite familiar with G.O. bond funding, as they are asked to vote on proposed projects for this funding about every three to five years. In fact, there’s a G.O. Bond Election coming up on Oct. 10. (See details about the election here.)
G.O. bonds are used to fund major projects and equipment such as streets, fire stations and trucks, computer software, upgrades to City facilities, and parks and recreation improvements. (See examples of previous G.O. bond projects here and here.)
The authorizations are typically in the $12 million to $18 million-range, which is broken into several payments over a period of time, generally three to five years.
Borrowing a definition from the Internet, G.O. bonds are “government-issued bonds that are repaid from state or local general funds or a dedicated tax.” In this case, they are repaid by the City of Bartlesville through the ad valorem (property) tax.
More on this from City of Bartlesville Chief Financial Officer Jason Muninger:
“The way these work is we sell them based on our self-imposed millage levy. The City likes to keep its property tax levy unofficially at 15 mils, so we only issue in the upcoming year an amount that doesn’t rise above that threshold. As these are sold by the year, their debt service then goes on the tax roll through Washington County. It will then be paid in by all the property owners within the Bartlesville city limits. The beneficiary of the bonds is the residents and visitors of the community. These bond proceeds are for roads, parks, and City-owned buildings and infrastructure.”
This tax revenue is derived from hotel and motel rentals. These revenues are rolled into the General Fund, but calculations are made for the City’s contribution to Visit Bartlesville, the tourism arm of the City, and The Center based on these revenues. Last year, $621,427 was collected in hotel-motel tax revenue.
These are fees paid to the City by local utilities with which the City has a franchise agreement. Basically, it allows local utilities (electric, gas, cable, fiberoptic Internet companies) to use City rights of way to service residential and commercial accounts. The money, which last fiscal year totaled $1,626,755, goes into the General Fund for general City operations.
From time to time, the City also utilizes low-interest loans from entities such as the Oklahoma Water Resources Board for major utility projects. An example of such a project from the past is the construction of the Ted D. Lockin Water Treatment Plant. An example of an upcoming project that will be financed this way is the planned expansion of the Chickasaw Wastewater Treatment Plant. These loans are repaid with revenue from Capital Fees, which are included on our monthly utility bills.
The City receives some state and federal grants as well as some public trust dollars for specific uses; however, these funds are minimal and immaterial to the City’s overall finances.
To see how all City funds have been allocated since 2006, including the current year’s budget, see www.cityofbartlesville.org.
Special thanks to CFO Jason Muninger for his contribution to this report.
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