Claremore Daily Progress

September 26, 2012

County could face 15-year economic drought

Randy Cowling

CLAREMORE — Beginning Oct. 1, anyone who shops in Rogers County will pay more in sales tax.

Thanks to a court-ordered judgment against the county, voters were faced with a choice of increasing property taxes over a three year period or spread the financial hit out over a longer period.
Voters overwhelming chose to increase the sales tax by a one-third cent that will go to pay off the judgment. From the time voters approved the increased tax until it is implemented, the $20.2 million judgment has grown with interest to $32 million.
It is a bit overwhelming. That is just the beginning, when voters made the decision to spread the hurt over time, they probably didn’t realize the total impact it will have on the county’s future economic development.
By the time the judgment is paid in full, 15 years from now, the total repayment will be $52 million.
Rogers County, being one of the fastest growing counties in the state, will soon find itself handcuff when it comes to economic development.
The increase in tax for the judgment, will impact voters’ decision on future taxes as well.
The county and any of its municipalities may have an uphill battle in renewing any future sales taxes put before voters for roads and fire districts.
The increased sales tax also impacts every business. Shoppers may be making choices by their wallets. 
With an ever growing retail shopping center west of the county, Rogers County residents will have a short drive to a county that charges less in sales tax, now and likely over the next 15 years.
Over the lifetime of the judgment sales tax, $52 million will be taken out of play for use on infrastructure and capital improvements.
County voters will have to make a choice when a one cent road tax is up for renewal next year. Voters will have to decide if county commissioners really need the funds and are using it wisely.
What is the ceiling on sales tax?  How much is too much? After Oct. 1 any purchases here in Claremore will generate just over 9 cents in tax, this includes state, county and city taxes.
When almost 10 percent of every dollar goes to taxes, it makes residents think more about where they spend their hard-earned money.
The increased taxes also can be an impediment for business who are looking to come to Rogers County. Developers look for communities with excellent schools, good infrastructure, calm governments and low taxes. 
Over the next generation, the sales tax burden will be a deciding factor for future economic development. It is a cross that the county will have to bear, at least for 15 years. It may mean Rogers County will have a 15 year drought when it comes to economic development.
Randy Cowling is editor of the Claremore Daily Progress.