Oklahoma Revenue Collections Fall Below Estimate

Tuesday, April 14th 2009, 12:18 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

SAND SPRINGS, OK -- A slow economy and sagging sales numbers are beginning to catch up with Oklahoma cities.  Many say they are experiencing sharp drops in sales tax revenue this year.  All Oklahoma cities depend on sales tax revenues to fund services, so officials say expect significant cuts.

Nancy Hill opened Art on Broadway in downtown Sand Springs two years ago.  It was the culmination of a life-long dream, and until recently, sales were great.  But, paintings are a luxury item, and she says people are cutting back drastically.

"It's either pay the electric or buy a painting, and right now they're paying the electric bills," said Nancy Hill.

It's the same story at other Sand Springs businesses.  Compared to March of last year, sales tax revenue plunged seven point six percent.

"We're no different than any other community in Oklahoma. We're facing the recession here, basically the recession has come home to roost," said Sand Springs city manager Doug Enevoldsen.

Sand Springs City Manager Doug Enevoldsen says he and other officials will soon put together the 2010 budget, and the revenue shortfall will likely mean 5% cuts for every department.

"Unfortunately, with the structure that we're all forced to operate under, we're reliant on sales taxes that have that instability, with the booms and bust of economic cycles," said Sand Springs city manager Doug Enevoldsen.

Other cities will likely be subject to budget woes as well. 

March sales tax revenue is down 4.6% in Sapulpa, 6.2% in Broken Arrow, and 14.6% in Jenks.        

At city hall in Tulsa, they are dealing with a 5.2% drop.

"That's going to require some difficult decisions and some hard challenges," said Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor.

Back in Sand Springs, business has slowed a bit for realtor Montie Box, but he tries to keep everything in perspective.  He survived the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, and says in the long run, a dip in sales tax isn't the end of the world.

"Hey those days are over, we've got the days of wine and roses now, really," said Montie Box.

One city did manage to avoid the sales tax slump.  Year to year revenue in Bixby is up 9.5%.

State Treasurer Scott Meacham indicates general revenue fund collections through the third quarter of the fiscal year that ends June 30 totaled about $4.2 billion. That is $33.4 million above the prior year, but $34.5 million below the estimate.