Strong sales tax silver lining for tough times

Published 5:00 am Monday, August 4, 2008

As families try to cope with increasing food, fuel and otherprices, they appear to be heeding city and chamber of commerceofficials’ “Shop at home” mantra.

As a result of shoppers supporting their friends and neighbors’businesses, Brookhaven topped the $5 million mark in yearly salestax collections in city history, according to fiscal year 2008totals from the Mississippi Tax Commission.

From a growth standpoint, Brookhaven saw an 11.8 percent growthrate for the fiscal year, far and away the best rate in SouthwestMississippi. Natchez and McComb, the area’s other two populationcenters, saw sales tax growth rates of less than 1 percent.

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But before Brookhaven residents boast too much about the strongtotals, it must be remembered that an annexation that took effectlast July is influencing the good sales tax numbers. Given thecurrent economic turbulence, it would be difficult to quantifyexactly how much impact the annexation is having.

A cursory glance at municipalities’ sales tax totals for the fiscalyear, however, would suggest other smaller communities are alsobenefiting from their residents shopping closer to home. Many haveseen at least a slight increase in their collection numbers overthe two-year period.

Consequently, large municipalities perhaps may not be quite theattraction they have been in more free-wheeling times when themajority of people were prospering economically. For example,fiscal year sales tax collections for Jackson and Hattiesburg – thetwo largest municipalities closest to Brookhaven – were both downabout 1 percent from the previous year.

As local officials readily point out, shopping with and buyinggoods and services from our friends and neighbors keeps sales taxdollars in town to circulate again and further help the localeconomy. Also, with the city getting a share of sales tax dollars,officials are able to use those to help provide services withouthaving to raise property taxes.

The troubling economy remains a dark cloud over the nation’slandscape and much uncertainty surely lies ahead. But thanks tolocal residents shopping at home, we are seeing a bit of a silverlining that can be good news for all.