Thursday, February 25, 2016

Strother Field (KWLD) tax battle continues

The county tax appraiser’s office has turned down the informal appeal filed by Strother Field legal counsel over the tax-exempt status of a property owned by the airfield.

Winfield City Attorney Bill Muret said the county appraiser’s office sent a letter to Strother Field Manager Shawn McGrew’s office Feb. 2, denying the informal appeal.

Muret told the Strother Field Commission, during its Wednesday night meeting, the letter cited state statutes prohibiting the local appraiser from granting a tax exemption status.

“We are not applying for an exemption, but telling them we are already exempt,” Muret said.

The property in question is south of 222nd Road near the Cowley Cinema 8 movie theater.

McGrew said that area is supposed to be tax-exempt as part of the runway protection zone.

He said special legislation created this tax-exempt status in 1992.

The land is currently being farmed — which is allowed by the FAA to help support the airport, according to McGrew.

Strother Field was notified of the change in status in December of 2015, and sent a real estate tax statement for the property.

The county appraiser’s office wants Strother Field to file an appeal with the State Board of Tax Appeals and drop the “paying under protest,” of the tax.

Muret told the commissioners he thought the best course of action would be to go ahead and file with the state board of appeals and see what they say.

“At this point I’m not going to pretend to know what they are going to do,” Muret said.

He said if the state board does not grant the appeal the next step will be the appellate court.

Muret also took issue with the notice being sent to McGrew’s office, instead of his. He said this didn’t constitute proper legal notification.

“The fact that they didn’t notify me bothers me quite a bit,” Muret said.

Commissioner Gary Wilson, Strother’s representative from the county commission, said this is not a unique problem to the airfield.

“We are going through this in several places,” Wilson said. “Many properties have been reclassified.”

 Wilson said he couldn’t become involved as a county commissioner because he would risk going to jail.

Wilson told Muret the obvious solution was to appeal the issue to the next level.

Muret said if they were to drop the appeal and re-file for a tax exemption, they may have to re-file for every piece of property owned by the airport.

In other business, the Strother Field Commission;

• cancelled an executive session over a property acquisition. Arkansas City attorney Tamara Niles told commissioners she had believed they would have been able to move forward on the property and publicly announce the purchase. Niles said the bank involved in the deal gave a letter of intent to the commission signed only by the bank and not the property owner. She said they wanted to enter into a contract with the owner and not the bank.

 Niles told the commission she hoped to have issues with the deal resolved soon.

• heard McGrew’s manager’s report updating the FAA report on their runway project, a survey of Four County Mental Health and an update on a survey McGrew plans to send private airplane owners.

The survey would see how many airplane owners would be interested in a hangar at the airport. McGrew wants to replace aging hangars at the airport and increase the number of them to facilitate a potentially growing demand.
He told the commission all the hangars were currently occupied and there were one or two people on a waiting list.

• McGrew also announced bids for the construction of a new water tower would be open March 10. He hoped to have something to report about the results by the next meeting.

Original article can be found here:

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