City officials respond to tribal leaders’ request for meeting.
Shawnee city officials sent a new letter Monday to tribal leaders in response to a letter they received earlier this month.
Mayor Wes Mainord wrote, “On behalf of the City Commissioners, I would like to thank you for your February 13, 2014 letter. We appreciate your timely response, and are thrilled you would like to meet with us. We are reviewing your letter and considering your proposed meeting date. We will be requesting some additional information from you before our next meeting. We will get back to you regarding these matters next week.”
Tribal leaders from the Absentee-Shawnee Tribe, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma and the Sac and Fox Nation sent a response letter to Shawnee city officials requesting a March 24 meeting to discuss the concerns of the city regarding city sales tax dollars.
The tribal leaders addressed certain issues in the letter they request city officials have prepared prior to March 10. Those include:
• Data used to support the premise that City of Shawnee sales tax revenues are declining;
• Data used to support the premise tribal economic development is directly responsible for any declining City sales tax revenues;
• Tax incentives and/or rebates offered or provided over the last five years to non-tribal enterprises by the City of Shawnee or by the State for development or preservation of businesses within Shawnee;
• Donations, contributions, payments in lieu of taxes, and similar assistance provided over the last five years by the aforementioned Tribes to the City of Shawnee.
Shawnee City Manager Brian McDougal said he’s glad city officials and tribal leaders are meeting but he’s disappointed the meeting isn’t scheduled sooner.
“We may try to meet sooner but that hasn’t been discussed,” he said.
McDougal said city officials would be present at the meeting to respond to questions from the tribal leaders.
“We haven’t decided who’s going to be there,” he said.
Mainord said he’s ready to get things worked out.
“I’m looking forward to sitting down and negotiating,” he said.
It has not been confirmed whether or not the meeting on March 24 will be private or open to the public.
The original letter sent from Shawnee city officials to tribal leaders earlier this month was to pursue an agreement to begin collecting and remitting the city’s 3 percent sales tax for sales made to non-tribal members.
According to the city’s letter, Shawnee has seen its sales tax revenues decrease with the increase in Tribal enterprises selling commercial goods and services within the city limits.
According to the city’s original letter, Tribal Nations are not exempt from collecting state and municipal sales taxes from sales to “non-Indians and non-members,” so the mayor proposes that the city reach an agreement with all four Tribal Nations for collection and payments to the city of Shawnee for the city sales tax of 3 percent on sales by tribal enterprises to “non-members and non-Indians.”
McDougal said sales tax revenues provide emergency, fire and police services, as well as road maintenance and repair, so city commissioners decided to contact the tribal leaders through the letter.
“We bought this land in 1867. Federal law says it is not in the city. The Oklahoma constitution exempts our land from taxation,” wrote CPN Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett, in a written statement to the News-Star following the original letter written from the city to tribal leaders.
“In this letter, it is like they want to tax the City of Tecumseh if someone from Shawnee buys something in Tecumseh. This is taking away the individual rights of the people of Shawnee to shop where they want to shop,” he added.
Barrett further noted that CPN provides 2,200 jobs in Pottawatomie County and has about a $522 million-impact on the economy.
“Much of the rest of the sales taxes Shawnee collects is derived from the turn over of our payroll in the economy of Shawnee. We buy in Shawnee. We donate to local charities, local law enforcement, churches, and send every penny of our license tag collections back directly to the schools,” Barrett stated.
“We do not use Shawnee’s water, sewer, or police. If we ask for help, we pay for it,” he concluded.
The city’s original letter shows that federal law requires tribal enterprises to collect the applicable sales tax on sales made to non-members within the city limits, for a total of 8.5 percent, which reflects a 3-cent city of Shawnee sales tax, a 1-cent county tax and the 4.5 percent state sales tax to the Oklahoma Tax Commission.
“The OTC apparently is not demanding you collect and remit sales tax from your Tribal enterprises. The city, however, is prepared to take action to enforce the sales tax, or at a minimum, the collection of the city sales tax,” the city’s original letter read.
The city has multiple options for enforcing the collection, including requesting enforcement action by or on behalf of the OTC and filing a lawsuit in federal court, the original letter further reads.
But the mayor writes that he hopes the city can come to an agreement with the tribes and establish a monthly payment-in-lieu-of-taxes.
“The city values its relationship with your Tribal Nations and appreciates the many contributions you have made to the development of the area’s economy and standard of living,” the letter continues.
“The fact remains, however, that Shawnee is hindered in providing services to all citizens, including your members. The city would like to avoid litigation over this issue and thus requests that you seriously consider this offer…”