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Unexpectedly strong sales tax welcome news

Brookhaven’s latest sales tax report indicates more sales activity than expected during a month many local businesses reported as a middling one.

     In March, Brookhaven vendors collected more than $465,000 in sales tax revenue due to the city, according to an April report released by the state Department of Revenue. That’s a notable increase from March sales activity recorded last year, in which the city received about $452,000 in sales tax revenue.

     Since last July, the city has received about $4.2 million in sales tax. This time last year, the city had brought in about $4.1 million since the previous July.

     The increase over last year came as a surprise to local chamber of commerce director Cliff Brumfield. Many local businesses had reported a slow sales month to Brumfield, and he was steeled for a drop in sales tax revenue.

     After examining the Department of Revenue’s April report on March sales tax collections, Brumfield concluded the March retail atmosphere was a little more nuanced than he originally assumed.

     “It was a little later in March when we saw a retail decline,” Brumfield said. “Big ticket sales were strong in the early part of the month.”

     Brumfield said he hasn’t heard anything that would indicate an error on the Department of Revenue’s part or a late payment by a local business, both of which can skew the numbers in a given month.

     Overall, Brumfield said he’s seeing more optimism as gas prices decrease and markets improve, though, he still fears the next sales tax report could indicate a decline before moving back up as the summer retail season begins.

      Brookhaven’s regional neighbors saw an even larger uptick in sales tax revenue.

     McComb’s March sales activity yielded more than $489,000 in revenue, up from last year’s figure of nearly $472,000. Natchez came in below McComb but pulled in more than $483,000 of revenue, up from last year’s $473,000.

     Brumfield attributed the increases of McComb and Natchez to activity related to oil drilling and exploration in Amite County.

     Though not as centrally located to the Amite County activity, Brumfield also believes Lincoln County is in a position to benefit.

     “Even some of our increase must be attributed to oil exploration,” Brumfield said.