Leader Blues

Friday, February 08, 2008

TOP STORY > > Sales tax receipts good

By RICK KRON & JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writers

The talk about a slowing economy has not caught up with local taxes. Jacksonville and Sherwood are reporting continued upswings in the collection of city and county taxes. Even Pulaski County collections have been solid.

The gas wells that are now pumping in White County have stimulated the economy there and tax collections are up.

Lonoke County is holding steady and in Cabot, where a growing population attracts new businesses almost every month, tax collections for 2007 were up 10 percent over the amount that was budgeted for the year.

“We generally run about three months behind the national curve,” said Mike Hutchens, the county comptroller, which means the area could see a downturn in a month or so. “We know it’s coming, so that’s why we were very conservative computing our tax collections for our 2008 budget,” Hutchens said.

The county collects two taxes—a sales-and-use tax for its use and then another half-cent sales tax, which is distributed, back to the county’s cities by the state.

Hutchens didn’t have figures from the state yet on the half-cent tax, but for the sales and use tax, he said the county collected $900,132 in September 2007, $951,261 in October and $918,028 in November, for a total of about $43,000 more than the same time period in 2006.

For its 2007 budget, Jackson-ville was expecting $500,000 a month from its 8 percent share of the county sales tax, but garnered closer to $510,000. For September, October and November 2007, the city received more than $512,000 a month.
Sherwood, which brought in $3.66 million in 2006 with its one-cent city sales tax, has already collected $3.8 million for 2007 with one month, December, still to come in. Sherwood also receives about six percent of the county sales tax. In 2006, the city’s take was $4.35 million, and in 2007, with a month to go, Sherwood is already at $4.45 million.

Sherwood’s take of the county money for the last three months that have been paid to the city was $382,113 in September; $368,764 in October; and $367,614 in November. That looks like a downturn in taxable sales from September to November, but the same type of drop showed up during the same months in 2006. In September 2006 the city’s share of the county tax was $366,802; in October it was $366,792; and in November it was $353,124—all less than the 2007 figures.

Jacksonville’s finance director Paul Mushrush said the city hasn’t seen a downturn yet, but with its conservative budgeting could weather a drop in collections. “We only went up slightly in our revenue numbers for 2008,” Mushrush said.

The same is true for the county. Hutchens said he increased projected tax revenues by only $150,000 for the 2008 budget, which works out to about an additional $12,500 a month.

White County Treasurer Janet Hibbits reports an increase in the county tax from $3.8 million in 2006 to $4.2 million in 2007. In the last three months of 2006, tax collections were $334,593, $322,759 and $322,848 compared to $394,587, $368,325 and $364,972 in 2007.

In Lonoke County, Treasurer Karol Depriest reports that sales tax revenue in the last three months of the year of $336,986, $215,329 and $209,571 are about the amounts expected.

Cabot Clerk-Treasurer Marva Verkler said the city budgeted $3.1 million in tax revenue for 2007 and brought in $3.4 million.
Cabot has changed its computer program for financial records and gone from accrual accounting to cash basis, and the numbers have not always been available in 2007. But Mayor Eddie Joe Williams says he is confident that the growth in tax collections has been four or five percent.

The last three months’ collections in 2007 ($283,712 for October, $275,867 for November and $272,150 for December) were as expected considering growth in the commercial sector.