Lodging tax revenues jump radically

Robert Smith

Increases in Osage County lodging tax revenues during the past three years have jumped radically, figures supplied by county tourism director Kelly Bland indicate, and she thinks the county could see even more exciting growth if it is able to attract even one chain hotel that could accommodate loads of tour bus passengers.

“I think we would be amazed at the revenue that would come in off of that,” she told the Journal-Capital.

Bland recently told county commissioners that lodging tax revenues for fiscal year 2016-17 were about $76,000. In fiscal year 2017-18, the number was a little over $108,000, she said. The revenue figure Bland gave for 2018-19 was a relatively eye-popping $211,000, but she clarified that it was a 13-month figure.

Due to an accounting change, her 2018-19 number couldn’t be compared on an apples-to-apples basis with the two previous years. She said that subtracting about $20,000 to $22,000 would probably create a truer figure for comparison. County fiscal years run from July 1 through June 30.

Bland also clarified that the lodging tax numbers she provided to the commissioners did not reflect casino lodging or tour bus lodging.

A key player in the growth Bland is describing is the bed-and-bath sector of the local economy, she said. The profitability of that line of business has been so attractive that some property owners are moving away from offering traditional rental houses to permanent residents and in the direction of developing bed-and-bath businesses, Bland said.

Even without a chain hotel, Osage County is able to provide bed space for more than 800 visitors a night, Bland said. She said this number does include casino-hotel lodging and the Post Oak Lodge.

All of this is happening in a generally improving economic climate for Osage County, tax revenue figures indicate. Numbers made public the past several years by the Oklahoma Tax Commission show that Pawhuska’s monthly sales tax receipts were mostly below $100,000 per month in calendar year 2016, the year that The Pioneer Woman Mercantile opened at Halloween. During only one month in calendar year 2016, did the city’s monthly sales tax remittance from the state exceed $100,000, according to state figures.

In 2017, Pawhuska’s monthly sales tax remittance exceeded $100,000 in eight of 12 months. In 2018, there was just one month when the city’s sales tax revenue figure dropped below $100,000, state figures show. So far in 2019, state figures indicate a bit of a leveling off of Pawhuska’s sales tax revenues, but overall revenues remain robust for a town of its size.

For added context about the upward local economic trend in recent years, consider the direction of collections on the penny and a quarter of sales tax that Osage County levies to support law enforcement and the health department. In fiscal year 2016-17, the collection figure was $3.988 million. In 2017-18, that increased to $4.290 million. In 2018-19, the number was $4.527 million.

Throw in a movie production in Osage County, and there’s no telling where the numbers could go.