City sales tax up; experts predict stronger 2015 growth

Oklahoma City’s August general fund sales tax collections were up 2.3 percent compared to the same month last year.

Collections for the month — which includes collections for the second half of June and the first half of July — totaled $18.3 million. Although the amount was up from last year, it was not as strong as economists had predicted.

The city also recently received its September sales tax check, which came in at 0.66 percent growth, putting the city at 2.85 percent growth for the first quarter of 2015. That is half a million dollars below the city’s target. August and September make the fifth and sixth consecutive months of increased sales taxes over last year, despite September coming in below estimates, OKC Budget Director Doug Dowler said via email.

Economists predict an overall better pace of growth for 2015 in Oklahoma City than what 2014 brought in, but not by much.

Dr. Russell Evans, Executive Director for the Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute, said that his team predicts conditions for at least a 4 percent sales tax growth in OKC, which is one percent higher than what the city saw last year.

“This year the early data looks like the stronger months should be the early months,” Evans said. “We got off to a pretty good start with July … [but August] was not quit as strong as we predicted.”

Overall the outlook is positive for both local conditions and sales tax collections for OKC, Evans said. OKC’s 2015 budget is built around a projected growth of 2.8 percent, Dowler said.

“Our overall projection for Sales Tax growth was 2.8% for FY15. We have set targets a little bit differently for each quarter of the year based on the forecast,” Dowler said.

Oklahoma City sales tax growth for the 2014 fiscal year that ended this past June came in right around estimates. Evans — who works closely with the budget offices of OKC, Edmond and Tulsa — had forecast a 3 percent growth in sales taxes with a strong fourth quarter, and that is indeed what happened.

“You could see the patterns in their data that their strongest quarter was going to be the fourth quarter,” Evans said. “[OKC was] coming in below their 3 percent level and had a very strong fourth quarter — April, May and June — and finished right at 3 percent.”

The city will not get a finalized report on September sales taxes until mid October, Dowler said.

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