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Tax intake gets healthy Sept. boost

While sales tax statistics in September began to reflect theimpact of Hurricane Katrina on coastal communities, Brookhaven’scollections soared by more than $51,000, according to totals fromthe state Tax Commission.

Brookhaven’s intake last month stood at $387,745.72, up from$336,549.25 in September 2004. The totals represent sales inAugust, collections in September and checks sent to cities earlierthis month, Tax Commission officials said.

Lavelle Sullivan, president of the Brookhaven-Lincoln CountyChamber of Commerce, said the totals were “pretty strong.” Heattributed the good numbers to Katrina-related activity at the endof the month and employee-pricing promotions on automobiles earlierin August.

“All the domestics had those in place,” said Sullivan, who ownsthe Sullivan Ford-Lincoln-Mercy-Mazda dealership. “No doubt thatcontributed to it.”

Officials had anticipated healthy sales tax numbers based oncomments from automobile dealers. But Katrina’s Aug. 29 arrivalprovided an unexpected boost in sales.

“You had evacuees here a day or two before the storm spendingmoney and what have you,” said Sullivan, while also mentioninglocal citizens buying generators and other items in the daysfollowing the hurricane. “There were a lot of supplies bought.”

Sullivan was optimistic about the months ahead.

“September’s numbers (which will be seen in October) should bedynamite,” Sullivan said.

From his own experiences, Sullivan said his dealership was downabout one week following the storm. However, sales in the threeremaining weeks of September surpassed August’s sales and those ofSeptember 2004.

Sullivan said Hurricane Katrina was a great tragedy andcommunity leaders did not want to sound boastful about seeingeconomic benefits.

“We’re not trying to rub it in anybody’s face,” Sullivan said,citing Brookhaven’s place on the interstate and other contributingfactors.

With the infusion of disaster assistance, insurance and otherfunds during recovery, Sullivan said he expects to see good salestax totals throughout the fall months.

In year-to-date collections, Brookhaven passed the $1 millionmark a month earlier in 2005 than in the previous year. The fiscalyear 2005 total was $1,082,441.90 through September, while it was$998,354.12 through the same point in 2004.

Brookhaven’s September total vaulted the community into thestate’s top 20 collectors at number 20. Some cities, particularlythose on the coast, dropped several places in the rankings.

Due to the hurricane, businesses in coastal counties and otherimpacted areas were given 30-day extensions to file sales tax andother returns, said Kathy Waterbury, spokesperson for the TaxCommission.

“There were so many people who just couldn’t file,” Waterburysaid.

The extensions give businesses until mid-October to file.Waterbury said those collections should be reflected in Novembertotals.

In the wake of the unprecedented storm, Waterbury did not offerany predictions on how the collections would compare to monthly oryearly totals.

“We’ll have to wait to get all the information before we cananalyze it,” Waterbury said. “This is new for us, too.”