The Moore American

February 19, 2014

Sales tax boon strong

By Joy Hampton
The Moore American

MOORE — Revenue from sales tax continues to be on a strong upward trend and city officials couldn’t be happier. Moore received $2,729,427 in sales tax receipts from the Oklahoma Tax Commission on Feb. 8. That includes an extra quarter-percent of tax for the parks project; that quarter-penny started on April 13.

Last year, Moore’s receipts were $2,404,324 in sales tax for February, but even without the extra quarter-penny per dollar spent, sales tax revenue is on the increase.

“The general fund portion of the sales tax was up 5.97 percent,” Moore Finance Director Jim Corbett said. “Year-to-date, we are up 9.5 percent.”

That’s amazing, considering the hit Moore took immediately following the tornado because of destroyed or damaged businesses and limited access in some areas of the city.

Sales tax receipts represent collections from one to two months prior, meaning Moore’s tax receipts were down on July 9, 2013. By the next month, those numbers had rebounded.

“Every month since then has been a sizable increase,” Corbett said.

Moore’s use tax receipts for February were $89,986, a drop from receipts of $104,814 last year. However, large receipts last February were abnormal.

“That was the largest single month for last fiscal year for use tax,” Corbett said.

He said this month’s use tax receipts are strong, relative to most months.

Cleveland County sales tax is also following a strong, upward trend. The county received $712,452 this February compared to $652,719 in 2013, an increase of more than 9 percent. Like Moore, however, use tax receipts for this February of $33,419 are below last year’s use tax collections of $36,528.

The Oklahoma Tax Commission deposited $5.7 million in sales tax in Norman’s account this month. Of those funds, $815,010 were Public Safety Sales Tax.

Use tax collections are up for January. The use tax deposit this month was $211,599 for the city and $35,267 for PSST funds, for a total of $249,156 compared to $225,332 last year — a 10.6 percent increase.

Overall revenue for the city of Norman is tracking on budget so far this fiscal year, Norman Finance Director Anthony Francisco said. Sales tax receipts year-to-date are running above budget predictions, while other revenue is tracking slightly below budget, balancing each other out.

Norman city sales tax for January and February last year was a roller coaster because of a reporting anomaly in January 2013. Some big-box stores reported later than normal, affecting Norman’s sales tax deposit for the month and making the January 2013 deposit low.

That abnormality last year meant the January 2014 deposit showed an unusually high percentage of growth compared to last year.

Low numbers for January 2013 then resulted in an abnormally large February last year, which makes this month’s deposit appear to be a decline in sales tax revenue. However, year-to-date, sales tax growth is running above predictions.

“Because of the anomaly last February, we expected the monthly receipts to be down from last year, and it was down 3.8 percent,” Francisco said. “Now we’re back on the fiscal year trend. The anomaly has worked itself out. The year-to-date collections are up about 5.6 percent from last year.”

Norman budgeted for a 4.2 percent sales tax increase, so sales tax receipts for this fiscal year are running above budget. Other revenue sources — primarily the franchise fee revenue — is down slightly because of a mild summer. Franchise fees are paid by electric, gas, phone and cable utilities for the public rights of way.

“The amount that they pay is tied to their revenue,” Francisco said.

The upswing in sales tax collections is keeping the city in line with overall revenue budget projections. Last fiscal year, the reverse was true.

“Last year was a relatively low sales tax year,” Francisco said.

“Coincidentally, the franchise fees were up.”

Summer 2012 was marked by drought and hot temperatures, resulting in higher utility bills and higher franchise fees, which offset the slow growth in sales tax that year.