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City sees record sales tax numbers in recent report

Brookhaven’s latest sales tax report showed a strong showing, but officials fear more depressed numbers may be ahead.

     Brookhaven’s March sales tax report, indicating revenue’s collected by merchants in February, came in at $415,468.14.

     In March 2011, the reported amount was $400,912.36.

     That’s the highest March report on record, said Mayor Les Bumgarner.

     “I couldn’t find one higher than that,” Bumgarner said. “We had some retailers that had some big months.”

     Since July of last year, the Department of Revenue reports Brookhaven has collected a little more than $3.7 million. In March of 2011, the city’s total since July stood at more than $3.6 million.

     Despite a strong month, Brookhaven lagged behind its larger regional neighbors.

     McComb’s tax revenue stood quite a bit higher than Brookhaven’s, at $456,798.65. Like Brookhaven, McComb saw an increase over last year, moving up from $448,132.09.

     Natchez sales tax came in higher than Brookhaven but lower than McComb, and also improved on its 2011 March report, moving up to $440,182.32 from $426,685.25.

     Though not a regional record-breaker, local chamber of commerce leader Cliff Brumfield called the numbers good news.

     “We’re not the highest in the area, but we’re glad to see our number is up over last year,” Brumfield said.

     Brumfield said the high report could cushion some lean times he fears are imminent.

     “I’ve talked to a number of retailers that have stated sales have been fairly flat since the middle of March, which will in turn translate into some numbers that might not be as healthy,” Brumfield said. “They’ve reported some pretty dismal days as of late, which is a good reason for people to do their business as home as much as possible.”

     Brumfield said the current economic recovery remains fragile. He would like to see consistent increases of 4 to 6 percent in the monthly sales tax reports over last year as a sign of more stable economic conditions.

     As the year moves into the summer months, Brumfield said discretionary spending may be influenced by gas prices. But on the whole, a stronger economy will lead to increased spending, Brumfield said.

     In recent months, several new businesses in Brookhaven have opened, including several restaurants. Brumfield said that’s a sign of health for Brookhaven’s economy, but may not necessarily translate into a higher sales tax report.

     Unless a business brings new traffic into an area, it typically just takes sales revenue that would have gone to other businesses rather than creating new sales, Brumfield said.

     New businesses still bring many benefits to an economy and can sometimes pull up spending levels, Brumfield said.

     “It can increase shoppers’ morale,” Brumfield said. “Sometimes seeing something new can increase shopping.”