May 21, 2019 10:14:57 AM
Fiscal year-to-date sales tax collections are up across the Golden Triangle, despite a dip in revenue for the month in Columbus.
Columbus received $860,903 this month in sales tax diversions from the Mississippi Department of Revenue for sales taxes collected in March, according to the department's website. That's down about $40,000 from the $900,223 the city got for March 2018's sales collections.
Sales tax diversions run on a three-month window, where they are collected one month, sent to the Department of Revenue the next, and then distributed to cities.
March's collections mark the second down month in a row -- February was down about $14,000 compared to February 2018's collections -- after starting the fiscal year with four straight months of growth.
Still, despite the decreases, Columbus is ahead of where it was last year in sales tax collections at the fiscal year's halfway point. The city has, so far, collected $4.85 million, compared to $4.84 million at the same time in fiscal year 2018.
Mayor Robert Smith could not be reached for comment on the month's sales tax collections.
Figures for Columbus' 2-percent restaurant sales tax, which returned in March, were not available.
Starkville's sales tax collections were up for the month, continuing a trend of growth that's held since Fiscal Year 2019 began in October.
The city received $651,691 for March's sales tax collections, compared to $623,938 for March 2018. Starkville has, so far, collected $3.66 million in sales tax revenue, compared to $3.48 million for the same period last year.
The current fiscal year's sales tax collections, so far, represent a 5.13 percent increase over last year's collections.
Mayor Lynn Spruill said the city budgeted for 2-percent growth in its sales taxes for the current fiscal year.
"When we budget, we budget conservatively," she said. "We are always delighted when we exceed -- particularly when we exceed above the amount we are showing above our budgeted amount."
Starkville's revenue from its 2-percent restaurant and hotel/motel sales tax is also up, both for the month and year-over-year, according to figures released with its sales tax numbers.
The city received $28,323 of March's collections, compared to $19,410 for March 2018. Starkville has gotten $193,250 in 2-percent tax revenue so far this fiscal year, compared to $126,358 for the same point in FY 2018.
Spruill said it's hard to know what's driving the increases -- the Department of Revenue doesn't give cities detailed reports about where the sales tax collections come from. However, she said she thinks it is partly due to the work the city has done through the years to establish events that draw people to town, in conjunction with continued success in Mississippi State's women's basketball and baseball programs.
"These numbers, to me, are reflective of the women's basketball, a few events that we've had, and baseball," she said. "I assume all of those things come together and make these numbers grow like that."
West Point continues to see growth in its sales tax collections as the city closes in on the end of its Fiscal Year.
The city received $184,785 in May for March's collections, compared to $178,313 for last March.
West Point has, so far, collected $1.68 million for FY 2019, compared to $1.64 million at the same point in FY 2018. The city has one more month for its fiscal year, which runs July 1 to June 30.
West Point Mayor Robbie Robinson said he's pleased with the growth that the city has seen.
"We've had a lot of retail growth, especially in the fast food sector," Robinson said. "To me, things are healthy here. It could be better, but we've had significant growth."
West Point has seen growth in its sales taxes despite the Department of Revenue withholding $18,300 per month -- nearly $220,000 per year-- to make up for past overpayments in sales tax diversions to the city.
Robinson said those withholdings are nearly complete, and next month should be the last the Department of Revenue withholds the money. However, he said the Department of Revenue has left it unclear whether that will be for the money the city gets next month, for April's collections, or that it will get in August, for June's collections. He said he believes it is the former and is eagerly anticipating getting the full allotment of West Point's sales tax diversions again.
"I am absolutely looking forward to having that removed," Robinson said. "It'll be like getting a gift -- a gift that we earned."
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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