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Sales tax totals down across area

The December shopping season brought a spike in the city’s sales tax total, but holiday spending declined over last year.

     The Department of Revenue’s January sales tax report, reflecting sales activity from December, shows the city’s latest sales tax check came in at $463,706.72. The city received the check in February.

     That’s a decrease from December 2010’s $483,315 total.

     The numbers fell below Mayor Les Bumgarner’s expectations.

     “That’s a little low,” Bumgarner said at last week’s city board meeting. “I was hoping for $480,000 or $490,000.”

     Car dealers have seen strong sales, but local merchants have been lagging a little bit, Bumgarner said.

     “We need everyone to get out and support our local merchants,” the mayor said.

     Based on the January report’s totals, Brookhaven came in 10th out of 21 cities Bumgarner watches.

     January is the first report in five months in which the city’s sales tax did not rise over the year before.

     The city’s sales tax collected since July stands at more than $2,939,456.12. That total just edges out the July to date total of last year, reported at approximately $2,931,000.

     Local chamber of commerce Executive Vice President Cliff Brumfield still sees much to be encouraged by in these numbers. The sales tax total jumped dramatically from the December report to the January report, Brumfield said.

     The December report, indicating revenue collected by merchants in November, put the city at $397,661.21. That was an average monthly performance, with totals in prior months hovering around $400,000.

     Thus, the January reports means shopping levels increased significantly in December after remaining flat for months, Brumfield said.

     “Though we did not post any gain (over 2010), the numbers show that shopping was definitely strong for that month,” Brumfield said. “As we move into warmer months, we hope to see totals remain strong.”

     Brookhaven’s failure to top 2010’s totals reflects an area trend.

     In the immediate region, Wesson collected about $15,000 of sales tax, dropping for December 2010’s approximately $17,655.

     Monticello dropped from $45,097 to $41,457.

     McComb saw more than $529,000 of sales tax revenue collected by merchants in December. Like Brookhaven, however, McComb did not top its 2010 totals, but fell by about $9,000.

     With approximately $522,000 of sales tax revenue, Natchez saw similar sales tax activity to McComb and bettered its 2010 revenue of approximately $509,941.

     Brumfield said the area’s lower shopping totals could be due to concerns about fuel prices. The numbers also indicate that more people might have done their holiday shopping in months prior to December, he said.

     Brumfield echoed the mayor with regard to car sales and other area merchants.

     “We’re still seeing flat sales in a few sectors,” Brumfield said. “We’re seeing some better signs in car sales.

     There’s much room to grow, however.

     “These purchases are still not in track with where they were before the downturn,” Brumfield said.

     The city had budgeted for $410,000 of sales tax revenue a month and remains on track with its projections.