Leaders dismayed by Sept. sales tax totals

Published 5:00 am Friday, October 23, 2009

City officials say they may not have lowered their expectationsquite enough when they changed the per-month sales tax projectionsfrom $425,000 to $415,000 at budget time.

When September’s numbers came in, officials were dismayed to seea check for $400,653.98.

“That’s $14,000 less than we’d budgeted,” Mayor Les Bumgarnersaid. “The statewide trend is down, and we adjusted the budget andlowered our sales tax expectations, but I don’t know if we loweredthem enough.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive VicePresident Cliff Brumfield said there were several reasons that thenumbers were lower than projected for September, including thetax-free shopping weekend August 1 and 2.

“A lot of people took advantage of the back-to-school shoppingon the tax-free holiday, which inevitably made some of thedifference,” he said. “August is typically a low month since peoplespend their extra cash and are saving up for the season.”

Of 18 cities of similar size that Brookhaven leaders track,Bumgarner said 15 were down in the numbers and only three wereup.

“The only ones that were up were college towns,” he said,referring to Oxford, Starkville and Cleveland.

In the Southwest Mississippi area, Brookhaven trails McComb andNatchez, though not by much.

McComb is down to $410,002.24 from last year’s $467,474.10, morethan a $57,000 a month drop. Natchez fared even worse, with a$404,600.68 September total for 2009, down roughly $62,000 fromlast year’s $466,074.36.

Brookhaven’s September 2008 numbers were skewed after ahalf-million dollar audit assessment on a Brookhaven business bythe Mississippi State Tax Commission accounted for a little over$100,000 of the $574,985.44 check the city received that month. InSeptember 2007, however, the city received a check for $404,870.83,which is still more than $4,000 above this year’s numbers.

Officials had hopes that the Cash for Clunkers program wouldmake a difference in the sales tax numbers, but Sullivan Ford ownerLavelle Sullivan said the project may have actually just helped cardealers stay on track with their monthly sales.

“I don’t think we had any incremental sales from it. That beingsaid, had the clunkers program not been there, sales may have beeneven lower,” he said.

But Brumfield said there is still hope on the horizon.

“I agree with the mayor that this is not good news, but not it’snot that bad either,” Brumfield said. “We will continue our courseof improvement in weathering the economic turmoil. We remainconfident that the upcoming season will have a very positive impacton our local economy.”