Mayor Bartlett looking for sales tax alternatives to fund city

by: Ian Silver Updated:

TULSA, Okla. —

City Hall in Your Neighborhood began Monday with the mayor and City Council in downtown Tulsa.

Mayor Dewey Bartlett is proposing a statewide task force led by himself and Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett to find new ways to fund city government.

Right now all cities in Oklahoma survive on sales taxes, use taxes, which is online sales tax, and other fees they charge.
 
The problem is the cost of running a city is growing much faster than sales tax revenues that nobody can control.
 
“You know, with more revenue the more we can actually do as a town as itself. We can actually watch our town grow…as opposed to watching it dwindle away because we don’t have the proper resources for it,” said Amir Graves, who supports extending the Vision 2025 tax.
 
That’s why Graves thinks finding new sources of revenue is a great idea.
 
“If the city can find an alternative means to create revenue, I’m most definitely with that, as opposed to just going inside the taxpayers’ pockets,” said Graves.
 
He said the city’s budget problems the past two years show the flaw in relying solely on sales tax revenue and forming a budget based on guesses of how much money people will spend in the city.
 
“If people start to lose their jobs, where do they actually expect to get the additional money from? It’s very, very difficult to forecast it,” said Graves.
 
And Mayor  Bartlett said on top of it being volatile, relying on sales tax makes it difficult to increase revenue.
 
“Two cents of our approximate 3-cent sales tax, 2 cents of that goes to the operation of our city government. And it’s been that same 2 cents since 1984,” said Bartlett.
 
And a lot has changed since then.
 
“Inflation has taken away a lot of value in that 2 cents,” said Bartlett.
 
He doesn’t know what other sources of revenue may be available, but that’s why Bartlett is asking Cornett to help him establish the task force to find out.
 
“But we certainly can’t, and I’m not asking for a higher tax. That’s not going to work. People aren’t going to go for that,” said Bartlett.
 
Oklahoma is the only state in the U.S. where state law allows cities to operate only on sales tax revenue.
 
Bartlett said he expects the task force to look at how other states do things, and take their ideas and suggestions to the state legislature.