Sales tax woes prompt Bartlett’s hiring freeze

Due to a lack of growth in sales tax revenues, Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett has ordered a city hiring freeze.

Bartlett, who is pushing for a sales tax increase in a vote in April, said he doesn’t see cuts accompanying the hiring freeze.

Bartlett sent an e-mail to city employees that stated, “…state law mandates that sales tax collections must serve as our main and sole source for revenue. When you couple that with increased Internet sales, on which sales taxes are not collected, we must continue our efforts to offset operational expenses. In an effort to get out in front of a difficult budget season and reduce expenses in the current year, I have instructed our team to start a hiring freeze immediately in the general fund departments. I also have asked Department heads to take a look at additional reductions in expenditures for the remainder of the current fiscal year.”

Tulsa doesn’t get millions of dollars of revenue every year from property taxes that go to the sinking fund. That money cannot be used for general expenditures but repays bonds and pays court judgments.

Bartlett and the Oklahoma Municipal League recently filed a brief with the Oklahoma Supreme Court to stop an initiative petition that would call for a vote on an statewide one cent increase in sales tax to fund education.

Bartlett said high sales taxes can hurt retail sales.