Sales tax no longer disappoints sheriff

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The annual budget of the Osage County sheriff is partly funded with a 1-cent sales tax. During his first four-year term, Sheriff Eddie Virden regularly lamented that the sales tax was simply not bringing in enough money to meet his needs.

Virden — now in the first year of his second term — has changed his tune, and he attributes the increased productiveness of his penny of tax to the efforts of county Tourism Director Kelly Bland.

”That’s why I was singing Kelly’s praises the other day,” Virden said Nov. 30, after the county Excise Board voted, 3-0, to approve the remaining $2,233,967.50 of his 2021-22 budget, with more than a million dollars left over.

“He humbles me,” Bland said in response to Virden. She said it is her privilege to communicate to the outside world what a great place Osage County is.

”We get a lot of positive feedback,” Bland said regarding tourist comments. She has also taken on more responsibility in the past several months, becoming executive director of the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce and director of Economic Development for the city.

County fiscal years run from July 1 through June 30.

During the 2020-21 fiscal year, county officials hoped that the penny of sales tax dedicated to the sheriff’s office would produce at least $250,000 per month. As a result of increasing revenue collections, the monthly benchmark figure for 2021-22 is $295,000.

Actual revenues are exceeding that figure, however.

In November 2021 and each of the four months previous, the sales tax penny yielded more than $330,000 per month

”It’s great news when it’s going the other way,” Virden said with a smile. He recalled that the penny of tax yielded hundreds of thousands of dollars less than he needed during his first term.

Virden said his department recently purchased new vehicles, and is trying to sell some old vehicles.

The Oklahoma Tax Commission said, in a news release, that it distributed slightly more than $180 million to units of government throughout the state for November 2021. That was an increase of more than $21 million over the $158.558 million it distributed in November 2020.

Pawhuska residents currently pay 9.75 cents of sales tax on the dollar. That breaks down as a state sales tax rate of 4.5 cents, an Osage County rate of 1.25 cents and a municipal rate of 4.0 cents. The municipal rate recently increased from 3 cents to 4 cents, due to the addition of a penny of tax to help Pawhuska Hospital.

According to the state Tax Commission, Pawhuska’s November 2021 sales tax distribution was $201,570.16. That was an increase over a November 2020 distribution of $125,201.63.

The November 2020 distribution was based on the old, 3-cent municipal rate. The November 2021 distribution was based on the new, 4-cent municipal rate.

Simple division and multiplication are sufficient to show Pawhuska is experiencing sales tax revenue growth beyond what would have been generated just by the increase in the rate.