The numbers are in. The city of Claremore’s sales tax receipts from the 2018 Christmas season came in at the beginning of February, revealing a slow trend of increasing local spending over the last five years.
On average, the people of Claremore spend $64 million locally during November and December.
In 2018, $66 million was spent at local stores and restaurants.
Mayor Bill Flanagan, Claremore Executive Director of Budget and Finance Suzan Maloy and Chamber of Commerce CEO Barby Myers added crucial context to these numbers and trends.
Shopping local keeps money in the local economy and supports local government, they said.
“The multiplier effect of peoples’ money staying local is really important,” Myers said. “When you shop locally, that money stays local. It is funding the employees that work at the business. It’s funding the business owner. And then they are spending that money again in the same community.”
Maloy said, “The trend has been that the sales tax we receive from the November and December sales is a little higher than other months, however our totals remain pretty steady.”
The Chamber of Commerce’s Santa Cash promotion is a contributing factor.
“I know people shop local for Santa Cash because there are 5,000 people out at the race track waiting to see if their numbers are read,” Myers said. “The impact of that promotion, which is solely to encourage people to shop local, is impressive.”
The sales tax earned in November for the City of Claremore is received in January. Sales tax income earned in December is received in February.
The City of Claremore collects 3 percent in sales tax. That money is allocated on arrival, with one penny from every dollar going to streets and infrastructure and the salaries of public works employees; one penny going to the expo center, recreation center and wastewater treatment plant; and one penny divided so that 20 percent goes to police, 20 percent goes to the fire department, 20 percent goes to the parks department and 40 percent to capital improvements.
“Sales tax is extremely important,” Flanagan said. “Without it Claremore would not be the town it is today and not have the quality of life we have.”
“We appreciate the citizens of Claremore and we try to spend their money wisely,” Flanagan said.
Myers and Flanagan had a few theories about what was causing the growth and why it was so slow.
In the 2016-2017 year, Amazon began charging sales tax per a state law that was passed, explaining the $35,000 increase from the previous year.
Flanagan suggested that the slow growth was a continuation of the recovery from the 2008 financial crises.
“We are just now back to where we used to be,” Flanagan said. “We are recovering, but it is a slow recovery.”
Myers, whose expertise is split between the Oklahoma and Kansas economies, said that both tend to lag behind the rest of the country.
“We hear that the economy is great,” Myers said, and it technically is. “We’ll just see it later. It is coming. It’ll just be later.”
Flanagan said the local spending increases also seemingly corresponds with recent, incremental increases in population, new housing, school population, and the Oklahoma economy at large.
“We hope that the upward trend in sales tax will continue. As the City grows, adds businesses and households, our sales tax should continue to steadily grow. However, there is no solid way to predict the future,” Maloy said.
“The city is extremely grateful when people shop in Claremore,” Flanagan said. “We hope people will make shopping in Claremore part of their buying practice.”