State denies Enid’s The One grant funding application after deadlines may have been missed | News
ENID, Oklahoma— After banking on a state payback grant, the town of Enid apparently won’t recoup most of the hundreds of thousands of dollars it spent on the downtown area where The One Christmas event took place. held during the last vacation.
Two weeks ago, the Oklahoma Tax Commission decided not to approve a request by the city to receive tax refunds from the state’s decade-old Quality Events Incentive grant program.
City officials say they still don’t know why their Feb. 1 request was denied at the weekly tax board meeting and have asked the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to help them resolve the issue. .
“I think that probably sounds like the final answer, but we were just checking,” City Manager Jerald Gilbert said Thursday.
The joint ODOC-OTC program reimburses municipalities in tax revenue for related expenses incurred for so-called “quality” events.
From August 25, 2021 to January 31, 2022, the Town of Enid spent over $300,000 in total on downtown capital improvements where the 140-foot-tall Christmas tree stood and the various events The One’s community events took place, according to detailed expenses presented in the city’s grant application.
No event can be reimbursed by the state for more than $250,000 in sales tax revenue. Refunds are determined based on expected sales tax revenues.
After being notified by state staff, the city expected to receive the maximum $250,000 from the reimbursement program, Gilbert said.
However, the three-member Oklahoma Tax Commission unanimously denied the city’s request on May 10, according to the meeting minutes.
Secretary-member Charlie Prater had offered to decline the candidacy, with a second from vice-president Mark Wood. President Shelly Paulk then voted with the other two to approve the motion rejecting the request. The minutes do not detail any further discussion on the agenda item.
CTA spokeswoman Cassandra Sweetman said the application was rejected because it did not meet all legal requirements, but the department would not comment further on requirements that were not met.
From 2015 to 2020, the OTC has reimbursed a total of $1.3 million to 42 quality events that were held in just four Oklahoma cities: Oklahoma City, Guthrie, Grove and Tulsa.
Gilbert said the city was told the series of events was not considered a ‘quality event’ and the submission did not meet a statutory deadline – although he said he too did not know which, as he said the correspondence did not specify .
Under state law, a “quality event” is defined as a new event or meeting of a nationally recognized organization or its members; a new or existing event that is a national, international or world championship; or a new or existing event that is managed or produced by a national or international organization based in Oklahoma.
“I think The One Christmas Tree event was a fantastic big event for Enid and frankly for Oklahoma. And so, I’m disappointed to hear that they didn’t approve our request for funding,” said said Gilbert “If it’s not a quality event, I don’t know what it would be for our city.”
On the same day as the CTO’s vote to reject the application, the director of the city-funded economic development nonprofit organization told Enid town commissioners that the town had received the maximum $250,000.
Lisa Powell, executive director of the Enid Regional Development Alliance, had outlined her office’s net gains for the city during a presentation at the May 10 meeting to consider the city’s now-approved fiscal year 2023 budget. city.
The ERDA had listed the prize money for quality events as $250,000, Powell said.
She then said last Thursday that her office and the Commerce Department were getting back to OTC to figure out why they had denied it earlier that day and “decipher the confusion.”
Powell said the ODOC had expected Enid’s application to be approved, after its officials first approved it.
Grant applications for a quality event go first to the ODOC for approval, then to the CTO for a final vote.
“It’s a two-step process,” Powell said, adding that she hopes to have an answer by this week.
ODOC Executive Director Brent Kisling, who formerly headed the ERDA, could not be reached on Friday about the grant application mix-up.
Records show the city may have missed the two-month bid submission deadline, which was changed last year to extend the program by five years.
According to the new state law governing the grant program, HB 1121, the governing body of the host community (in this case, the city board) must first pass a resolution authorizing the application, designating dates for the event and all eligible expenses incurred, within 30 days prior to the event.
The host community then has an additional 60 days to submit the resolution, an economic impact study and the history of the event.
The CTO has an additional 60 days from the date of receipt to reject all or part of the submission, which may also have been missed.
(HB 1121 does not specify whether the 60 days are considered business days, excluding weekends and holidays, or calendar days. However, 60 business days would still have given OTC until mid -April to consider the request.)
City staff had applied for the grant on February 1, after the Enid City Commission approved an official statement needed for the application on October 19, 2021.
In a letter to the Oklahoma Tax Commission included in the February request, City Manager Gilbert said the city of Enid had spent nearly $312,000 to improve capital assets in the area, according to documents requested by News & Eagle.
According to an attached capital improvement cost spreadsheet, this infrastructure work included a total of $184,000 over eight detailed sidewalk costs. Another $35,000 was paid for six pillar foundations used to support the Christmas tree. Eight barricades, or bollards, costing a total of $380, were also purchased for installation as needed on either side of Grand and Independence.
More money, but not as much
Event One may have generated hundreds of thousands in revenue for the city, but less than a submitted economic impact study had predicted, according to multiple city and state reports.
Last year’s program extension also removed the requirement for actual documentation of revenue generated from the event, instead allowing for a projected economic impact study. This study would include estimates of expected expenses, vendor sales during any other time period, and a detailed estimate of the expected increase in sales tax revenue during the event.
At the request of the City of Enid, ERDA commissioned OG&E to prepare the required study, which was completed on September 28, 2021.
OG&E projected that The One events would result in 66,000 visitor stays (number of non-local visitors and number of days) in the region.
According to OG&E, these visitors are expected to spend $24.42 million on food and beverages, accommodation, entertainment, transportation and retail in the region, representing more than $1.5 million in direct and indirect tax revenue. local and national.
According to the OTC’s monthly tax reports, the city of Enid, which alone has a sales tax rate of 4.25%, reported an additional $400,000 in monthly sales tax revenue collected in December. 2021 than the previous year, for a total of $3.9 million that month.
The city also received $320,000 more in November (for a total of $3.25 million), but reported $183,000 less in January (for $2.67 million), according to OTC.
Enid’s hotels generated combined hotel tax revenue of $92,000 in November 2021, $73,000 in December and $72,000 in January 2022, according to hotel tax revenue reports received by the News & Eagle.
November and January’s hotel tax was about $15,000 more than the same months a year earlier, while December’s was nearly $4,000 more.
With The One events returning this fall, Gilbert said the city will need to make sure the series qualifies going forward, indicating that it could apply for the state grant again.
“If you don’t put them in place, you can’t have them,” he said. “We will continue to swing.”