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City sales tax still trending upward

City and economic leaders say it’s a call for optimism and the sign of a gradual economic recovery.

     But whatever it’s called, Brookhaven’s sales tax totals outperformed last year’s revenue for a fifth straight month with the release of the June report by the State Department of Revenue.

     Brookhaven’s June report, totaling revenue collected on May sales activity, indicated $441,669 of sales tax money, up from $436,256 in last year’s June report.

     The January report, showing December sales activity, is the last time this year the city failed in a given month to increase its collection totals over the same month from the previous year.

     Mayor Les Bumgarner believes resurgent car sales share much of the credit for a rising tide of sales activity.

     “The car industry has been suppressed for so long. After a while people have to replace their cars,” Bumgarner said. “It’s kind of like the housing markets. It can’t stay down forever.”

     Bumgarner also pointed to other signs of life in Brookhaven’s retail sector, including a new shopping center on Brookway Boulevard and resumed construction on a hotel near Interstate 55.

     “I wouldn’t say we’ve turned the corner, but I am feeling more optimistic,” Bumgarner said.

     The mayor maintains a monthly list comparing Brookhaven to comparably sized cities throughout the state. Out of 21 cities, Brookhaven ranked 10th this month.

     The summer is typically a time of slower retail activity, said local chamber of commerce director Cliff Brumfield. That makes the latest report particularly encouraging.

     “To have been on a winning streak since January is fantastic,” Brumfield said. “These numbers are the continuing sign of a, albeit slow, recovery.”

     The city’s 2011-12 budget projected $410,000 a month in sales tax revenue. The city has comfortably exceeded that target several months this calendar year and only been below that target once.

     Since the city’s fiscal year began last October, the city’s monthly sale tax revenues have only been below the projected target three times.

     The state’s fiscal year begins in July, and since then, Brookhaven has pulled in a total of more than $5.09 million. In June 2011, the city’s annual collection stood at about $5.02 million.

     The July report will restart its record of annual collections, but the city’s fiscal year runs through the end of September.

     Positive sales tax numbers also are reflected regionally.

     McComb saw a dramatic increase over last year. Its 2012 total hit more than $440,800, over the June 2011 report, which recorded about $410,000 of sales tax revenue.

     Though Brookhaven came out ahead of McComb, it fell just behind Natchez, a city that also saw a dramatic increase over its totals last June. Natchez pulled in $447,768 in revenue, while last year it saw $408,800 in revenue.