February 22, 2017 10:38:53 AM
Sales tax collections in the Golden Triangle are a mixed bag so far in the 2016-17 fiscal year.
Collections sent to cities this month, for taxes collected in December, were down slightly in Columbus and West Point, but up in Starkville. Likewise, total fiscal year-to-date collections are down -- in West Point more than Columbus -- and up in Starkville.
Columbus received $978,751 from the Mississippi Department of Revenue for December collections. Taxes run on a three-month process, where they are collected one month, sent to the Department of Revenue the next and then distributed to municipalities. Therefore, the money distributed in February was collected in December.
February's receipts are about $30,000 less than the $1.008 million received in February 2016 en route to a record sales tax collection year.
So far, the city has received about $4.1 million in sales tax collections this fiscal year, which began in October, and Chief Financial Officer Milton Rawle said the year-to-date total is only about $12,111 behind last fiscal year.
Mayor Robert Smith said the city will keep an eye on collections but he is optimistic they will remain stable.
"It's the first time we've been down in some time," Smith said. "This past year, we were up the entire year (more than) $902,000. I don't see anything where we should be getting alarmed."
Smith also noted that, even if the city is currently slightly behind, there's still plenty of time to catch up or surpass the previous year's collections.
Starkville received $661,604 in sales tax collections this month, according to the Department of Revenue. The total is $24,680 more than last February's $636,924.
Sales tax collections are also up for the fiscal year so far in Starkville. The city has drawn in $2.86 million in collections so far, compared to $2.24 million for the same time last year.
Mayor Parker Wiseman said the higher collections are a continuation of strong sales tax growth the city has seen in recent years. For calendar year 2016, Wiseman said, the city saw a sales tax growth rate of 5.88 percent, which he described as "exceptionally strong." He said the city typically budgets for 2.5 to 3 percent sales tax growth.
"This is the biggest number we've seen in quite some time -- 5.88 percent growth in sales tax is nearly $400,000," Wiseman said. "That provides a significant benefit to city services.
"To put that in context, annually we try to spend in the ballpark of half a million dollars in new infrastructure projects," he added. "In the context of a $20 million annual budget, it's significant, but it's extremely significant to have a source of revenue that's growing at a very rapid pace."
Wiseman said the growth of Mississippi State University has fueled sales tax growth, as has increased tourism spending in the city. He said annual tourism spending has grown 56 percent in the last eight years.
The trend, Wiseman said, should continue.
"The profile of Mississippi State athletics has risen considerably in recent years and continues to be on an upward trajectory," he said. "We've also opened a conference center within the last 24 months. Those are our two biggest tourism drivers."
West Point received $204,650 in sales tax collections in February. The total is $29,243 less than $233,893 the city received in February 2016.
Mayor Robbie Robinson said the city has received $1.58 million since the beginning of its fiscal year, which starts July 1, as opposed to October 1 like Starkville and Columbus. He said that's $78,800 less than the $1.6 million the city had at the same point last year.
Robinson said the city will continue to monitor collections, but he isn't "hitting the panic button" yet. He said new businesses, including a Love's Truck Stop on Highway 45 that is set to open in the next six months, should drive up collections.
"We're going to watch to see if it's trending this way," Robinson said. "I think we'll be secure when we have these new businesses coming online."
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