Declining sales tax collections remain key concern for city

Published 5:00 am Thursday, March 19, 2009

Brookhaven sales tax collections continue to top city governmentdiscussions as the economy remains foremost in the nationalspotlight.

Sales tax numbers since October have been lower than the$425,000 projected per month in city budgeting for the year,causing officials to scratch their heads and look for ways to fillin the gaps. At Tuesday night’s board meeting, Mayor Bob Massengillpresented the numbers to city leaders, asking them to start lookingfor ways to cut back on spending.

“We need to continue controlling costs and look for ways to savemoney,” Massengill said.

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The sales tax check for February was $383,368.67, which isroughly $42,000 less than the projected budget amount. Last month’scollections represented sales made in January.

“For several months of our fiscal year, we’ve averaged 415,000,which is 10,000 less than we budgeted,” said the mayor, referringto the city’s fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

The February amount is also around $14,000 less than the$397,188.61 brought in for the same month last year.

But, Massengill said, of 22 cities near the same size,Brookhaven still ranks fifth in income. And statewide, Brookhavenremains in among the Top 20 collectors at No. 21.

Neighbors McComb and Natchez are both ahead of Brookhaven incheck size, but are also down from last February’s income. McCombis down from 2008’s $420,981.07 to $412,563.82 this year whileNatchez has dropped to $390,257.88 in 2009 from last year’s$397,781.26.

Massengill pointed out that only nine cities Brookhaven’s sizehad increased their sales tax since last year. Of those, he said, afew had recently annexed.

And while the city’s fiscal year looks grim, state fiscal yearto date totals show Brookhaven just an inch ahead of last year’space, with the city having accrued $3,481,639.95 this year, asopposed to last year at this time, when it had brought in$3,452,241.59. Unlike the city, the state fiscal year begins July 1and goes through June 30.

While that lead may evaporate in the next month, BrookhavenLincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President CliffBrumfield said while Brookhaven is feeling the pinch, otherprosperous cities are having to watch their budgets as well.

“If you compare our numbers to some other communities, you’llfind that many other communities known for their prosperity arealso tightening their belts,” he said. “I don’t believe that ournumbers compared to some other Mississippi cities are as bad asthey could be right now.”

Much of Brookhaven’s deficit is being attributed by city leadersto the stalled auto industry. However, officials have kicked off arigorous “Shop at Home” campaign designed to show local buyers thepositives of keeping money in a local economy.