(Posted April 25, 2019)
“Are we Getting a Warren Theater?” Mayor Will Joyce Explains:
There's been some discussion on Facebook today about movie theaters, tax incentives, and development in Stillwater. I've tried to keep up and answer questions where appropriate, but rather than chase all the threads, I figured it might be helpful to provide a quick FAQ on the topics being discussed.
1. Are we getting a Warren Theater? Maybe. I certainly hope so. We have announced previously that Warren is looking at several sites in Stillwater for a new theater, and the city has been involved in discussing what incentives might be available depending on the location and scope of the development. Those conversations are continuing, but nothing has been finalized.
2. Is the City going to give Warren incentive money? If the development happens in one of the areas of town when incentives are available, yes, it's possible that Warren will receive some incentives.
3. How much incentive money? That's still unclear, and it depends on the location and details of the development. If the theater is in the central reinvestment area covered by the new TIF, I would expect that Warren will request several million dollars in incentives.
4. Where does the incentive money come from? The money DOES NOT come from the city general fund. It DOES NOT come from road funding, or any other money that the City uses now to provide infrastructure or services. The money DOES NOT come out of any taxes you have paid, nor will it have any effect on your sales or property taxes. Tax incentive financing only uses the new property and sales tax generated by the development itself.
5. Why would we incentivize a private business to come to Stillwater? For better or worse, communities compete for these type of attractions, and other cities have been willing to provide millions of dollars in incentives, including Edmond, Midwest City, Broken Arrow, and Moore. In the case of movie theaters, several attempts have been made over the years, and multiple companies have expressed interest, but Stillwater was not willing or able to provide the requested incentives. The result has been that Stillwater loses thousands of dollars in sales taxes when our residents drive to those other communities to see a movie. Those sales taxes pay to maintain Edmond's streets and for Moore's new fire trucks. We need to keep them here.
6. Why would we incentivize a movie theater downtown? The Stillwater (Re)Investment Plan makes incentives available to encourage redevelopment in the central core of town. This location is important because of its proximity to campus and the existing infrastructure that badly needs to be updated. Rather than seeing more development pushed to the edges of town, requiring more new infrastructure and accompanying sprawl, traffic, and maintenance costs, we are encouraging business to redevelop dilapidated and underused parcels in the core. This allows the City to use its limited funds more efficiently and creates a more consolidated, vibrant, attractive area for residents and visitors.
7. How will a decision on incentives be made? If Warren decides to pursue a downtown location, they’ll present a request for incentives to the City. This request will be vetted by the downtown TIF review committee, made up of representatives from our local taxing entities (Payne County, the Public Schools, Meridian Tech) and four citizens (Jeremy Bale, John Killam, Mark Blakeman, and Susan Arrington). The committee will examine the anticipated financial benefits, tax revenues, and other factors. The committee’s meetings are open to the public. The committee with then make a recommendation to the City Council about whether to approve, deny, or modify the request. The City Council will then discuss the same issues in open meeting before making a final determination.
There are certainly a lot more questions that we will continue to discuss, and most of this is based on policy decisions that are really up to what we want to do as a community. Based on my conversations and the feedback I get, I believe that Stillwater is ready to invest in itself and pursue more opportunities to grow and prosper. You may not agree, and I get that. Let’s talk about it sometime. Email me at email@example.com and we’ll set up a time to grab coffee.