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City off to slow start in sales tax collections

As far as public money goes, it’s not a huge amount of cash, but recent state sales tax data shows Brookhaven is currently one of the state’s biggest year-to-date losers, ranking 301 out of 308 in terms of sales taxes lost over last year’s totals.

Sales tax diversion data from the Mississippi Department of Revenue shows the city’s share of local sales taxes since the start of Fiscal Year 2019 on July 1 at $1.86 million, down $42,026 from the same time period in 2017, with the gap not quite doubling since September. Ole Brook trails only Philadelphia, Oxford, the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State, Columbus, Winona and Verona in terms of municipalities lagging behind in year-to-date collections.

Three-quarters of the fiscal year remain, but so far Philadelphia is down $98,749 — the biggest loser in the state — Oxford is less by $94,316, Ole Miss is behind almost $84,000, MSU is down $73,000, Columbus is missing $67,000, Winona is less $65,300 and Verona is behind almost $62,000. Brookhaven is next, showing the seventh-greatest loss of sales tax diversions over the same time period in 2017.

Last month’s total collections for Brookhaven were also down from the previous year, with the October total reported at $455,024, which was $15,257 and change less than last October.

The other two big cities in Southwest Mississippi — McComb and Natchez — are also trailing behind 2017 totals so far this year.

McComb has collected $1.84 million in sales taxes since the start of the fiscal year, and that amount is behind the city’s 2017 year-to-date total by roughly $20,000. But the city to the south had a rough October — last month’s $397,638 was nearly $77,000 below the same 30 days in 2017.

Natchez is running tighter so far, though still behind. The River City has collected $1.7 million since July 1 and trails the same time period for last year by just $2,000. Natchez missed matching last October by nearly $30,000, however, bringing in a little less than $410,000 last month.

Other cities around Mississippi of comparable size to Brookhaven are lacking consistency in tax collections, and some of them are missing a few dollars, too.

Mississippi’s usual suspects have collected the most taxes since July 1. Jackson leads the state with $9.6 million in the coffers so far, followed by Gulfport’s $7.5 million, Hattiesburg’s $7.5 million, Tupelo’s $7 million and Southaven’s $5 million. The same cities had the best Octobers this year, and almost in that order — Hattiesburg’s last month was better than Gulfport’s by $82,600.

Three of those same cities — Gulfport, Southaven and Tupelo — are also the state’s most improved so far this fiscal year. Since July 1, Gulfport is up $395,000 over the same time period for 2017, while Southaven is up $340,000 and Tupelo is up $309,000.

Of the 308 municipalities listed on the DOR report, 170 are showing fiscal years-to-date to the positive, while 138 are showing losses so far.

Sales taxes have a three-month cycle. Taxes are collected by retailers in the first month, paid or reported to the state in the second month and diverted back to cities in the third month. The DOR report is based on the second month.