The Norman Transcript

June 30, 2013

Sales tax revenue growth key for Norman community

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

There are very few problems in life that can be rectified with a single solution. Such is the case with ensuring a strong sales tax base for a community such as Norman. Rightly or wrongly, a municipal government relies on sales tax for a large portion of its funding. Without a growing sales tax base, the ability of Norman to fund first responders, quality parks and better roads becomse a much more difficult task.

For the last fiscal year, the city underperformed, with sales tax collections coming in under projections and below both the state as a whole and below our surrounding communities.

Action to strengthen the growth rate in sales tax revenue is required by both consumers and government entities at the local, state and federal levels.

The city of Norman recently invested in the improvement of our fiscal situation by adding a retail recruitment position to city staff. A position long established in many other communities, the recruiter will help make sure Norman is on the radar for companies looking for new markets.

Sometimes retail development comes organically to a community, but often, a community must market itself in a competitive retail environment. Kudos to the foresight of the city council as they continue to look for other ways to strengthen our retail environment.  

On the state and federal levels, legislators must finally recognize the disproportionate advantage given to online retailers in the retail sales arena. Let’s be clear. Sales tax is legally due on every purchase, whether made online or in our local stores. The difference lies in who is responsible for remitting the tax: the consumer or the retailer.

With online purchases, the sales tax burden is on the consumer, whom too often neglects the remittance on their state tax form. It’s hard to blame them. The burden should be on the online retailer, just as it is for our local merchants. It is up to our legislators to bring parity to this system in an equitable manner.

Finally, and ultimately, it is up to you, the consumer. Spending your dollars on purchases locally is the single most effective method to ensure a stronger fiscal environment for the city and a robust and growing retail environment in Norman.

Our local businesses fund our houses of worship, our Little Leagues and charitable organizations. Perhaps you may save a dollar with on occasion or spend an extra $5 in gas to save $6 by shopping out of town.

But remember those retailers won’t fund your local United Way. The revenue spent elsewhere won’t ensure there is a police officer close by when needed or keep your neighborhood park maintained.

We must all focus our attention and resources on creating a strong and dynamic sales tax base for Norman. Our community is worth it.

John Woods

president and CEO, Norman Chamber of Commerce