The City Council approved a six-year contract with Lawton firefighters Tuesday, and set a formula into place to determine sales and use taxes for the Republic Paperboard Tax Increment Financing district.

The agreement with the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1882, overwhelmingly approved by Lawton firefighters, puts a contract into place that covers the existing (2019-2020) fiscal year, as well as every fiscal year through 2024-2025. City administrators call the long-term agreement “unprecedented” and it won approval from all but Ward 2 Councilman Keith Jackson.

Among other things, that agreement marks the return of a “Me Too” clause, in this case assuring firefighters that if non-union general employees receive an across-the-board pay raise (meaning, other than annual merit step increases), firefighters will receive the same across-the-board raise.

In addition, the contract agreement affects the fire pay plan, increasing the percentage spread between Steps G and H, and Steps H and I by 5 percent each. The spread between Steps G and H would go into effect Jan. 27; the spread between Steps H and I would become effective Jan. 9, 2023.

Finally, the contract provides for an annual public safety sales tax incentive to eligible firefighters, made after all applicable taxes, deductions, withholdings and employee and city pension contributions are taken. That incentive already can be funded in 2015 Sales Tax Extension Program and is included in the 2020 Capital Improvements Program that city voters will decide Feb. 11.

Council OKs funding formula for TIF

Earlier in the meeting, council members approved a funding formula for what is officially identified as TIF 3, continuing work associated with designation of the Republic Paperboard plant property in the west industrial park as a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district.

Council action adopted a resolution setting the formula for determining the sales and use tax, with those revenues to be designated to the apportionment fund that is part of the TIF process. The resolution specifies the non-designated 2 percent sales and use tax generated by the construction, investment, and development activities in connection with the Republic expansion.

The designation would come under the agreement that Republic and the Lawton Economic Development Authority are negotiating to handle the TIF activities, an agreement that city officials expect to be set into place by month’s end. The revenue will come from the $94 million capital investment that Republic intends to make in its modernization effort, and Republic has pledged to create 20 new permanent jobs with an average annual compensation of $108,000 per position.

The TIF process, set by State of Oklahoma guidelines, allows the City of Lawton to designate increases in ad valorem and sales tax revenue toward the cost of infrastructure improvements. The provision sets a baseline assessment of the property; any increase in ad valorem which comes as a result of the industry’s investment — as well as sales tax revenue that is generated from the construction contract — can be designated to cover infrastructure costs.

In the case of TIF 3, only part of the growth will be designated to the TIF apportionment fund. The project plan approved by the City Council in December also allows a portion of the ad valorem revenue growth to be designated to entities that receive ad valorem revenue from the Republic property: Cache Public Schools, Comanche County, Comanche County Health Department and Great Plains Technology Center.

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