Strong city sales tax trend continues

Published 8:49 pm Thursday, August 19, 2010

Brookhaven leaders are tickled to death about the fact thatsales tax has taken an upswing in recent months, indicating thatperhaps the city’s economy is in fact on the road to bettertimes.

Brookhaven’s July sales tax check came in at $441,524.32, well overlast July’s $425,424.98, and even more over the city’s budgeted$415,000 a month.

But as exciting as all that, as far as city officials areconcerned, is the fact that Brookhaven seems to be picking up speedeven for Southwest Mississippi.

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“Of the 20 towns I keep on record, we’re usually number eight ornine,” said Mayor Les Bumgarner. “Now we’ve finished fifth threemonths in a row. I might have to pick some new cities.”

Brookhaven topped McComb and Natchez, cities aldermen use forfrequent comparison because of their size and proximity, for thethird straight month. Both cities are also well above their 2009numbers, indicating a bounce back effect from the strugglingeconomy as well.

McComb brought in $432,149.04, while last year their July total was$423,708.26. Natchez came in with $434,825.48, as opposed to July2009’s $422,420.20.

Statewide, Brookhaven ranked at No. 20 among Mississippi’s topsales tax collectors. With July being the start of a new statefiscal year, the city’s year to date total is the same as itsmonthly total.

Meanwhile, as Brookhaven aldermen work on their budget, they’reworking with numbers based on $400,000 of sales tax per month, asopposed to the $415,000 planned in last year’s budget as or the$425,000 estimate that city officials had figured on in pastyears.

“When I did planning for the new budget, we started this two monthsago, me and the mayor were talking, and we decided we needed to bevery cautious on sales tax,” City Clerk Mike Jinks said. “If thebottom falls out again, we don’t want to be scrambling to revisedown. If we start low and are blessed and have good sales tax, wecan always revise back up.”

Last year Jinks had to drop the monthly sales tax estimate in thebudget because city leaders were taking care to budgetconservatively, and they weren’t sure local sales would meet the$425,000 each month. They were right, with several months below$400,000; however, the city has bounced back as the economy hasstarted back on the rise.

Jinks said he is cautiously optimistic about being able to revisethe budget later in the year for more sales tax.

“I’m not going to base it on three months good collections to saywhat happens the rest of the year, I’m always conservative onbudgeting revenue,” he said. “I’m not going to be too optimistic tostart with. We don’t want to go out on a limb and put more inthere; that won’t get it. I think we’ll get more for the year, butif I’m wrong we’re in worse shape than if I budget down and we makemore than we thought.”

In addition to topping other Southwest Mississippi cities,Brookhaven also came out on top of Jackson area cities such asMadison and Brandon, officials said.

Madison has been an important benchmark to some aldermen since theyhave added a mall recently and their sales tax has increased as aresult. Their July 2010 check came in at $392,235.18, as opposed to2009’s $372,719.98. Meanwhile, Brandon’s numbers are close to thesame as their $391,962.53 is up from last year’s $372,655.56.