Leaders: Shop locally to boost sales tax revenue

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Brookhaven’s most recent sales tax check is down 7 percent froma year ago, a fact that city officials are using to point to a needfor shoppers to stay local in tough economic times.

“We are really emphasizing that,” said Mayor Bob Massengill.”Especially during these economic times, it’s even more importantfor people to buy at home. That money is vital to the city.”

The check the city received this month was from collections madein January, which reflected sales made during December.

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The $466,370.27 that came back to Brookhaven from DecemberChristmas sales is a great step up from the previous month’s$395,611.54. However, it is substantially lower than the$501,797.46 for the same month a year ago.

City officials had hoped sales would pick up considerably duringChristmas, attributing the slump to the dive in automobile salesduring the poor economy.

While the city’s monthly total was down, state fiscal year todate collections paint a little more positive picture.

Since July 1, the start of the state’s fiscal year, totals showthe city having taken in $3,098,271.28 this year as compared to$3,055,052.98 at the same point last year. That represents anincrease of about 1.5 percent.

Massengill, however, pointed out that the city’s sales taxincome is down 5.4 percent from last year’s numbers forBrookhaven’s fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. He said Brookhaven isnot off budget that far because officials had budgeted for lessthan last year.

The other cities Brookhaven officials like to compare numberswith are all over the spectrum when it comes to economicfluctuation, Massengill said.

“Most of the cities we really compare ourselves with are notcities our size because our sales tax is better than a lot of thecities our size,” Massengill told the board of aldermen last week.”Oxford and Corinth usually run a little higher than us, and bothof them had decreases in this three-month period.”

Oxford is down to $534,681.56 from last year’s $551,071.78, andCorinth’s $526,035.94 is almost $60,000 lower than 2008’s$585,145.08.

Meanwhile, more locally, Natchez’s $518,938.75 shows a drop fromlast year’s $538,201.11, while McComb has also down a good bit from$572,480.14 in 2008 to $565,335.92 this year.

Despite the sales tax trend, officials said there’s no reason topanic.

“All things considered, for a city in these times to be only 7percent lower than last year’s figures is very comforting,” saidBrookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Vice President CliffBrumfield about the most recent monthly total. “Ninety-five percentof the rest of America would envy our position.”

Brumfield said part of the reason sales are down is due to localspenders tightening their belts out of general uncertainty.

“I would think a lot of that 7 percent was due to buyerreluctance,” he said. “Our market is strong and will becomestronger as buyer confidence improves.”

With a goal of boosting sales tax collections, the board ofaldermen has instituted a subcommittee to encourage people to shopin Brookhaven and Lincoln County.

“It supports not only the city government but the localmerchants,” Massengill said. “We want to do the best for the localeconomy that we can.”

And it’s also about good management of the city’s resources, themayor added.

“This tells us we’ve got to control our spending,” he said.