April 20, 2013 7:23:16 PM
Officials are confident Starkville's economy is still growing despite a slight dip in February sales tax returns.
In February, Starkville collected $475,222.71 in sales tax returns, a .89 percent decline from February 2012's $479,482.34 mark. Last year's February collection marked the highest sales tax return for that specific month.
Both Mayor Parker Wiseman and Greater Starkville Development Partnership CEO Jennifer Gregory said the month's slight dip is not troubling since last year's drastic upswing in February returns. Compared to the previous year, February 2012's collections increased 10.86 percent.
"We feel like the overall growth is remaining steady. Remaining close to that number in (February) 2012 is a success in my opinion," Gregory said. "Overall, sales tax collections have grown, and I think that will continue. It speaks to the amount of people shopping locally and the visitors Starkville is attracting."
Comparatively, 2012 only featured two months - May and July - in which sales tax returns declined from the previous years. May 2012 saw a 5.44 dip in returns, while July 2012 collections dropped 3.81 percent.
The city collected $905,955.65 combined from the first two months this year, which is approximately $6,000 more than it collected in the same timespan last year. Starkville posted a sales tax-collection record of $5.6 million.
While the city is lagging behind its 2012 calendar year average in collections -- $452,977.83 this year compared to 2012's $470,133.21 monthly average - its monthly average for the fiscal year is outpacing last year's average by approximately $20,000. The city's fiscal year runs from October to September.
Local 2 percent food and beverage tax returns also slightly declined in February compared to last year. The difference? Starkville missed February 2012's $132,705.98 mark by $515.32, a .39 percent drop.
Hotel tax returns, which also constitute a portion of two-percent collections, for February amounted to $11,373.41. The city collected $12,013.61 for February 2012.
A portion of the 2 percent taxes returns to the city, while the remainder is split between various organizations, including tourism initiatives, Starkville Parks and Recreations and Mississippi State University student programs.
While Starkville saw a slight decline in tax figures, two neighboring communities saw even greater losses.
Earlier this month, Columbus officials met with Mississippi Department of Revenue officials about the city's declining sales tax revenues.
Fiscal Year 2012-2013 collections have declined consistently over the past six months. In February, Columbus experienced a 2 percent dip in sales tax revenues compared to January 2012. This March, $698,385.72 was diverted from MDR to the city, compared to $735,788.97 last year.
MDR records show the city is coming shallow by almost $200,000 this year when comparing the past two years' collections starting from July 1.
West Point collected $169,383.36 in February, a $10,015.39 drop from last year's February total. Since May 2012, the city has posted four months - September, December, January and February - in which collections decreased from last year. Of those four months, dips greater than $1,000 occurred only in January ($1,076) and February.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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