Officials remain hopeful in spite of sluggish tax totals

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, December 23, 2009

November is usually a slow month for sales tax returns, and thisyear has proven no different for the Brookhaven area, althoughofficials said the city’s ranking in the Top 25 in the stateremains an encouragement.

Brookhaven’s sales tax returns remain lower than budgeted,having consistently fallen below the projected $415,000 per monthestablished at budget time. But officials point to the fact thatthe city still ranks 23 in the state as a mark in the pluscategory.

“Once again we’re enjoying being back in the Top 25 towns forretail sales throughout the state. Our placement ahead of Madisonshould strongly comfort area residents that our economy iscontinuing to strengthen,” said Brookhaven Lincoln County Chamberof Commerce Executive Vice President Cliff Brumfield. “Ourplacement ahead of many larger and seemingly economically strongercommunities is an excellent indicator of what’s expected in comingmonth.”

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The tax check representing October’s sales came in at$373,974.11, with last year’s monthly total, which was still low,at $415,398.60.

Brookhaven Mayor Les Bumgarner said there are positives andnegatives in the big picture.

“It’s a great concern of ours because we had budgeted $415,000 amonth, and this is the second consecutive month that it’s been downin the $35,000 to $40,000 below budget range,” Bumgarner said. “Wehope the next couple of months can pull that out, because if not,we have to address the budget and make some adjustments. Usuallythat leads to cutting ongoing projects or future projects or areduction of personnel.”

The mayor said, however, that his hopes are that the picturewill begin to brighten.

“I have confidence in that. I guess, really, people are going tospend money during Christmas,” he said. “But come January orFebruary, it gives you a truer picture of the disposableincome.”

Officials said sales have begun to improve, but larger purchaseslike automobiles are still moving slower than usual.

“During the month of October, what we’re seeing is that manyretailers began to see improvements in sales due to the recoveringeconomy, but during the same time all those new and used car salescontinued to not be as strong as they should be,” Brumfield said.”If both sectors experienced growth, our numbers would bestronger.”

Natchez, McComb and Brookhaven continued their usual monthlyshuffle for top sales tax figures in the Southwest Mississippiarea.

Natchez topped the area with a total of $410,283.77, which isdown from last year’s $458,681.04. McComb brought in $377,349.58,which is still substantially lower than last year’s$434,693.18.

And yet, Natchez and McComb still sit at numbers 21 and 22 inthe state, respectively, with Brookhaven at 23, above Brandon andOcean Springs.

Meanwhile, Madison, which city officials have often compared toBrookhaven in size and income, sits at $335,595.16, down about$19,000 from last year.

Brookhaven has also been known to run neck-and-neck withStarkville from time to time, but the home of the Mississippi StateBulldogs brought in $406,301.93 this October, as opposed to almost$431,000 last year.

Brumfield said sales in the last two months of the year shouldbegin to show a rise in the numbers.

“The coming returns for November and December could paint adifferent picture as many retailers have reported one of theirstrongest Decembers to date,” said Brumfield. “October, perhapsmore than any other month in recent history, should reinforce theneed to shop for automobiles and retail items locally.”