Leader Blues

Saturday, June 13, 2009

TOP STORY >> Revenues still going to cities at good clip

Leader staff writer

Even though Cabot has seen its city and county tax collections go up and down, its revenues are still running about $80,000 above last year’s totals.

Sherwood is also up for the year because of the tax collections coming from Walmart, which opened last June.

Jacksonville’s city tax collections are down through May about $87,000 for the year, but the city had planned for the downturn when it developed its 2009 budget late last year, according to the city’s finance director, Paul Mushrush.

The state, however, was down almost $13 million in gross receipts collections, which was a 7.3 percent drop from a year ago and about the same amount below what it had forecast to bring in.

Department of Finance and Administration economist John Shelnutt place a lot of the blame for the drop on slower vehicle sales across the state.

Tammy Yokum with the Cabot financial department said the intake from the city tax from January through April this year was $1.53 million, up from the $1.49 million over the same time period last year. But Yokum did point out that the city saw drops in the March and April collections.

Cabot’s share of the Lonoke County tax from January through April was $751,971, up about $35,000 from last year’s intake of $717,848 for the same time period.

Sherwood saw a $13,000 drop in April in its share of the Pulaski County sales tax from last year. So far this year, the city’s share of the county tax was $1.9 million compared to $1.93 million for 2008.

Sherwood’s city tax intake for the year so far is about $300,000 above the 2008 total. The city didn’t see any tax collections from the Walmart Supercenter until September.

For this year, collection of the city tax stands at $1.9 million, compared to $1.62 million for the same time period last year.

Mushrush, Jacksonville’s finance director, said February is usually the largest month for city tax receipts as it’s actually the tax from December’s sales. “We were down 4.4 percent,” Mushrush said.

He added that the best month for county sales tax is usually April, and the city’s take was down 8.09 percent.

Jacksonville’s city tax intake through May stands at $2.99 million and its share of the county tax is at $2.63 million.

Mushrush said he expects an improvement when the higher federal minimum wage—up to $7.25–goes into effect later this month.

“That will give people some disposable income,” he said.

Mushrush said there are models showing national and state improvement and others showing another dip, but he believes the economy is stabilizing.

The state’s monthly revenue report from the Department of Finance and Administration showed net available revenues in May totaled $293 million, down $3 million, or 1 percent, from a year ago, but $6 million, or 2.1 percent, above the May forecast.

But most of that $6 million will disappear once a delayed monthly transfer of $5.9 million takes place, according to the report.

On the year, net available general revenues total about $3.9 billion, $38.6 million below a year ago but $44.1 million above the general revenue forecast. Shelnutt, the state economist, said he expects the cushion to be gone by the end of the month.