Sales tax revenue growing

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Marshall County sales tax collections will be $300,000 more than what was collected last year, according to projections by the executive director of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board.

It will be the third year in a row for sales growth, JECDB Executive Director Mike Wiles said Friday when reviewing state statistics. "We've shown that steady growth and it shows in month-to-month figures."

Wiles' projection was sought because county commissioners agreed to make $300,000 more available to schools for roof repair and other maintenance. Sales tax revenue is divided between school systems and municipalities. Businesses collect sales taxes, send that money to the state which distributes it to cities and counties.

School Board member Donnie Moses is concerned commissioners' refusal to provide more property tax revenue to schools gives schools more of an unreliable source of increased revenue, sales taxes.

If monthly sales taxes don't meet county expectations, the county may borrow money in anticipation of property tax revenue next year. County commissioners conducted a public hearing Tuesday on the annual budget and tax rate. A final vote is Sept. 24.

The economic ebb and flow of Lewisburg and the nation are reflected in the rise and fall of Marshall County sales tax revenue. Ten years ago, loss of several thousand jobs at International Products cut $400,000 from sales tax revenue. It totaled $4.3 million in 2002. It stayed at $4.5 million two years and increased to $4.9 million when Walmart opened in 2005. The next two years, sales taxes remained at about $5.5 million and grew to $6 million in 2008. Late that year, Sanford announced its pencil factory closing, shedding 350 jobs. In 2009, America was in the grip of a recession. County sales tax revenue was $5.1 million in 2009.

In 2010 and 2011, sales tax revenue grew to $5,277,000 and $5.4 million.

"We made roughly $457,000 monthly in sales tax revenue during 2011," Wiles said.

He projects sales tax revenue for 2012 might be $5.7 million. However, 2012 year-to-date monthly average revenue is $491,000, with the Christmas shopping season still to come.

Schools will get 44 percent of the $300,000 increase Wiles projected, Moses said, which amounts to $145,000 more.

"The county commission has seen our point," Moses said, acknowledging the prospect of money being made available for capital projects. "They're on the hook for $11,113,000 of local money for schools."

State funds are the largest part of county school system budgets.

"I'm glad to see that growth" in sales tax revenue projected by Wiles, Moses said.

Still, he doubts sales will deliver anticipated revenue for the county's next budget. It's three months late and is set for passage a week before Tennessee may withhold more than $2 million in basic education program funds from the county.

Moses said commission will pass the budget Sept. 24; the county won't have to borrow money for schools; and county budget reserves can cover sales tax revenue shortfalls.