Claremore Daily Progress

April 26, 2013

Chamber opposes 1-cent tax renewal

Board asks commmissioners to reconsider the road tax

Salesha Wilken
Staff Reporter

CLAREMORE —

The Claremore Chamber of Commerce board voted this week to oppose the renewal of the Rogers County 1-cent road tax extension on May 14.
The chamber’s position maintains the proposed tax renewal does not address key economic growth concerns for the county and within the City of Claremore at this time, according to the chamber’s official statement.
However, their position on the tax renewal does not preclude support of a “more equitable constructed road tax” in the future, according to the board. The chamber is requesting the commissioners consider a reduction in the tax percentage to lower the overall sales tax rate in Rogers County.
Rogers County tax among highest
Rogers County currently has one of the highest county sales tax rates in northeast Oklahoma at 1.833 percent — compared to surrounding counties including Tulsa at .85 percent,  Mayes at 1.375 percent, Washington at one percent and Wagoner at 1.3 percent.
At 2 percent, only Craig and Nowata counties have a higher rate than Rogers County.
The county rate is just a portion of the overall rate, depending on the place a purchase is made.
County, city and sales tax rates combined create the total sales tax paid by citizens. 
The state rate is 4.5 percent when added to the Rogers County rate the total is 6.33 percent. 
All purchases made outside of Claremore will  pay at the “county” rate.
However, the City of Claremore has a rate of 3 percent, so all purchases made in the city limits would be require the 6.33 percent “county” rate plus 3 percent for the city at a total of 9.33 percent.
Claremore’s sales tax rate of 3 percent is most common among municipalities.
Pryor and Collinsville are at 3.75 percent. Catoosa’s rate is 3.25 percent and Tulsa 3.167 percent — the closest cities to exceed Claremore’s rate. 
If the tax is not renewed the county’s rate will drop to the lowest rate at .833 percent among these counties.
The new rate would fall below other area municipalities including Owasso at a rate of 8.35 percent and Tulsa at a rate of 8.517 percent. 
Redirect Revenue
The chamber requests a percentage of tax be used to pay off the Material Services lawsuit settlement in a shorter amount of time, taking into account the new third-penny sales tax or adding to it “a commitment to work with City of Claremore, using county road tax funds, to address critical road projects inside the city limits.” 
The chamber’s position acknowledges all county residents, school districts, fire and safety agencies and businesses have benefitted from previous road tax revenues since the tax was first passed in 1988.  
The tax has been renewed four times in five-year increments and is set to expire in October 2.
“The result of this tax investment by Rogers County citizens has been quality rural roads throughout the county,” according to the board. 
In addition to the county 1-cent tax, Rogers County receives tax revenues from the state of Oklahoma through T-Highway funds.
Additional State Funds
The Oklahoma Legislature on April 10 approved HB1080 which will redirect  5 percent or approximately $37 million of motor vehicle collections to fund county road and bridge improvements.
These funds will increase the amount of T-Highway or road funds received by all county governments  based on the mileage of “major collector” roads.
The chamber is concerned about the court-mandated tax liability and the subsequent one-third penny tax increase imposed last year on businesses and shoppers. Voters selected the option in June 2012 to implement the sales tax to avoid a drastic increase in property taxes. 
The sales tax gave taxpayers the ability to spread the burden of the judgment in excess of $30 million over more than 15 years versus the proposed property tax increase that would have had to be completed in approximately three years creating the possibility of severe hardship for residents.
Another point of concern is that road projects in Claremore are not given consideration within the 1-cent county tax budget. 
County road tax budgeting does fund road projects in other county towns and cities, including Catoosa, according to the board. 
The commissioners have recently stated that state law prohibits them from working inside the City of Claremore.
More than 50 percent of the 1-cent tax collected comes from city of Claremore businesses, operating within the city limits, according to the chamber.