By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
After the recent recession, many cities are beginning to climb out and report positive progress in terms of economic confidence.
A recent Gallup poll said that in the U.S., economic confidence overall is increasing and remained steady throughout March. This trend has also been occurring in Liberal.
While the city is unable to track the actual number for economic confidence due to time, financial and resource restraints, economic development director Jeff Parsons said the city’s economy has remained strong.
“You’ll see that household incomes are relatively high, which gives families discretionary money to spend and unemployment is low,” Parsons said. “So you have a high percentage of our people who are actively working and spending money, so a strong economy, lot of jobs, that naturally leads to increased retail sales.”
Chris Ford, finance director for the city, said this increase in retail sales makes Liberal a better name in recruiting businesses to the city and the recruiting would also spark other areas of the city.
“Increases in sales tax show that retail business is strong and growing in Liberal and has in the last several years, which allows us to go and talk to new retailers and say ‘hey, business in Liberal is good, you need to be here,’” added Parsons.
Both Parsons and Ford said the increase in retail sales directly affects the 1-cent sales tax, currently in its third issue. During the update on the sales tax at the State of the City address in February, the sales tax had raised more than $67 million. They both also agreed that the tax has had tremendous effects for the city. They both also acknowledged its controversy when it was originally voted on for its first issue in 1994.
“At first, a lot of people didn’t know what to think of it, it was kind of controversial but each election that we’ve had, I believe our last one was 82 percent (approval) and so, therefore, each election has steadily increased in approval percentage,” Ford said. “I think that a lot of that has to do with the community’s confidence – the city had to prove itself that it would do good things with the sales tax.”
Some of the projects already completed from sales tax funds mentioned by Ford include repairs to streets, sidewalks and park improvements. Ford considered those projects the tip of the iceberg and said Liberal would be a vastly different city without the sales tax.
With increases in sales tax collections, he said there are even possibilities of moving projects up from projected start dates, given the money and time are aggreeable.
“I’d like to think that had a lot to do with some of the recent actions that the commission has taken for growth and development,” Ford said. “There’s a lot of good things in motion from it, and we’ll keep hoping that the sales tax keeps its momentum. We hope to have another record year for 2014.”
To view the original Gallup poll, visit: