MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

April 5, 2013

Sales tax leakage, civic center are budget issues

Mayor: Fixing sales tax problem would solve others

City administrators debated a number of topics Friday afternoon at their annual budget retreat.

Conversations ranged from infrastructure, employee pay and health insurance to street projects. After the initial discussion, led by City Manager Greg Buckley, concluded, Mayor Bob Coburn identified topics that were hotly contested by the meeting’s participants.

Coburn spoke mainly about two items:

• Sales tax leakage.

• Future issues facing the Muskogee Civic Center.

The sales tax leakage issue was raised in response to queries about how to fix Muskogee’s long-neglected infrastructure issue. One option bandied about was to find a source to finance a one-time payment to help “catch the city up.”

Coburn replied that a step-by-step process — a 25 percent dent in sales tax leakage would result in an extra $7 million per year, Coburn said.

“In 10 years, that’s $70 million,” Coburn said. “And we just fixed our infrastructure ... we don’t have a problem taking our money out of this community. We need people to realize that spending it here will pay for a firefighter’s salary, it will pay for an EMS salary. It builds a stronger economy and a stronger community.”

Coburn turned his attention toward the Muskogee Civic Center, saying the future Creek Nation Casino Event Center will cause a change in dynamics that the Civic Center will have to address.

“They’re (Creek Nation) going to spend $10 million down the road and take 50 percent of the business from here,” Coburn said. “In a short period of time, this is going to be an expense that we go ‘Whoa, we’ve got a problem.’”

One problem mentioned was booking agents who can promise a potential act shows at three casinos, for example, while Muskogee Civic Center management can only promise one show, in a smaller venue.  

Coburn suggested the possibility of contracting with their agent, so they can make similar promises to potential acts — “You can swing by Fort Smith, here and Enid, for example,” Coburn said.

Muskogee Civic Center Manager Cassandra Gaines said her committee already does something similar to that, but agreed with Ward IV Councilor Kenny Payne, who said “dynamics change.”

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth@muskogeephoenix.com.

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