Eddie Streater, Regional Director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Eastern Oklahoma Region, has denied the Osage County Commissioners’ appeal to the Osage Nation’s application for fee-to-trust on 75 acres in north Tulsa.
“Based upon the record before the Region, the loss of ad-valorem taxes attributable to the Tulsa Back 75 property will be of minimal impact on Osage County, are off-set by the contributions of the Osage Nation to and within Osage County, and do not constitute grounds to deny the subject trust application,” according to Streater’s six-page letter to Osage County District Attorney Rex Duncan. “Accordingly, the Superintendent’s (Robin Phillips) decision to accept the Tulsa Back 75 parcel in trust for the Osage Nation is affirmed.”
Duncan filed the appeal on March 12 on behalf of commissioners Jerry Howerton (District 1, Pawhuska), Kevin Pasley (District 2, Skiatook) and Darren McKinney, who is an Osage tribal member (District 3, Fairfax). Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear’s response was to immediately pull $5 million from Osage grant funds that went to improving roads and other areas within the county.
The commissioners protested the fee-to-trust application because they thought the county would be losing out on $73,569 in ad-valorem taxes. However, according to Streater, that was a miscalculation based on the wrong acreage of the Tulsa Back 75 parcel. The actual amount the county would be losing is $10,899.35, which he said is 0.031 percent of the county’s total tax bill of $34,654,378.27.
“Appellant does not offer any evidence to show how the loss of tax revenue will result in a diminished level of services. Simple disagreement with or bare assertions concerning the Bureau’s decision are insufficient to carry the Appellant’s burden of proof on appeal,” Streater wrote. “The Bureau is not required to speculate regarding impacts.”
The commissioners have 30 days to file an appeal to the Interior Board of Indian Appeals.
Osage Nation contributions to Osage County
The following is taken from the Osage Nation’s response to the Commissioners’ appeal.
– Since 2007, the Osage Nation has voluntarily contributed $1,742,500 to various Osage County governmental entities including the Skiatook Community Health Clinic, City of Hominy Water Infrastructure, City of Hominy Fire Truck, Grocery store in Fairfax, Barnsdall Water Treatment Equipment, Barnsdall EMS, Boulanger Water District, Osage County Volunteer Fire Departments and EMS and Osage County Industrial Authority for construction of the Pawhuska Business Development Center.
– In 2017, the Osage Nation paid $1,728,031 to the State of Oklahoma for gross production taxes, with a portion being shared with Osage County.
– Additional contributions by the Osage Nation include voluntarily contributions to the schools in Osage County which amounted to $126,620.24 in 2015, $253,936.47 in 2016, and $245,371.80 in 2017.
– The Osage Nation also funds several tribal governmental programs which directly relieve Osage County from providing these services to Osage County which include the following:
– Childcare from 2015-2018 $1,284,754
– Early Learning Academics from 2015-2018 $6,706,677
– Osage Nation Police Department 2015-2018 $4,383,337
– Emergency Management Department from 2015-2018 $842,664
– Immersion School from 2016-2018 $1,758,279
– Wildland Fire Department from 2017-2018 $677,129
– The Osage Nation employs 1,164 full time employees with 497 of those employees working in its government programs and service activities with 2017 gross payrolls for Osage Nation totaling $23,135,099 and $43,504,296 for the Osage Nation Casinos.
– The Nation and the Osage Nation Casinos have also paid $391,080 annually in discretionary sponsorships that benefit many residents of Osage County.
“The Regional Director finds that the loss of ad valorem taxes from the Tulsa Back 75 property will have a minimal economic impact on Osage County and that the numerous contributions made and services provided by the Osage Nation more than off-set the loss of ad valorem taxes,” Streater wrote.
Shannon Shaw Duty
Original Publish Date: 2018-04-12 00:00:00