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Oklahoma City sales tax growth slows, online surges to record

Local economic activity appeared to take a slight dip as summer turned to fall in Oklahoma City.

Sales tax results for November show underlying economic growth of 1.1 percent locally, down from 3 percent last month and 5.3 percent in September.

Local sales tax collections failed to meet budget projections for the first time in quite a while — but online and out-of-state purchases again showed sharp growth.

Sales tax is Oklahoma City's single-largest revenue source, covering day-to-day expenses for vital services such as police and fire protection.

Oklahoma City received $37.7 million in sales tax for November from the Oklahoma Tax Commission, after accounting for the state's processing fee and interest earned.

November is the 19th consecutive month of year-over-year growth in monthly sales tax revenue, besting the 18 consecutive months of growth from October 2011 to March 2013.

November sales tax is based on economic activity the last two weeks of September and first two weeks of October.

Sales tax on online and out-of-state purchases — categorized as "use" tax — showed another healthy increase for November, up 48.5 percent from November 2017.

That follows increases of 49.9 percent in October and 63.2 percent in September.

The surge is being driven in large part by sales tax remitted by and third-party vendors selling through Amazon's online marketplace. 

Use tax receipts totaled a record $7.3 million.

Using those figures, online commerce may be accounting for 15 percent of economic activity in Oklahoma City.

Through the first five months of the fiscal year, use tax revenue in the general fund is $5.4 million, or 29.1 percent, above projections, said Doug Dowler, the budget director.

Dowler said sales tax revenue was $992,200 above the budget target for the general fund, the primary account for day-to-day operating expenses.

The positive revenue picture contributed to the city council's approval of across-the-board raises of 2.2 percent for many employees, on top of the 2 percent approved last year.

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William Crum

OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman. Read more ›