May 11, 2012 10:24:18 AM
Jeff Clark - [email protected]
Consumer confidence may be on an upswing in the Golden Triangle as March sales tax figures show a steady increase from February and from 2011 numbers.
In Lowndes County collected sales tax increased from $4,506,206 in February to $5,000,665 in March. The figures show a steady increase in sales tax collected on food, automobiles and general consumer merchandise purchases. There was also an increase from $4,863,795 in March of 2011. Of the 7 percent sales tax levied by the state, 18 percent is returned to the city, equaling to 1.3 cents of each dollar spent.
The money will go into the general operating funds of Columbus, Artesia, Caledonia and Crawford. The county does not use any of the sales tax money.
"We don't see any of the sales tax money," Lowndes County Administrator Ralph Billingsley said. "The county lives off of ad valorem taxes. We don't get a piece of the sales tax."
Clay County, which holds only one city entity with West Point, saw an increase from $795,273 in February to $981,096 in March and an increase from $838,405 from March of 2011. West Point City Administrator Randy Jones said the increase was not surprising.
"We generally see a spike around this time of year as people have received their tax money and they are buying cars and larger purchases," Jones said. "I do think that there's a small turn in the economy. This is making people a little more comfortable when it comes to spending."
Consumers buying food and purchasing hotel rooms in West Point may soon be paying a higher sales tax as a request to add an additional one percent sales tax on food, liquor and hotel rooms has been passed by the state's legislature. The one percent tax will go towards funding projects for the West Point-Clay County Growth Alliance.
"This is something I support and I hope to see it become a reality," Jones said. "You have to do everything you can to fund economic development. One way we can do this is through a tourism tax."
A public hearing must be held on the proposed tax increase and it must pass a balloted vote before it can be implemented.
Economic news was also positive in Oktibbeha County where sales tax collections rose from $2,906,973 in March 2011 to $3,231,237 in March of this year. It increased from $2,896,945 in February.
Starkville Chief Administrating Officer Lynn Spruill said there is no scientific way to account for the increase in revenue.
"I have been asked this so many times and I really cannot come up with an answer," Spruill said in response to being asked what were the contributing factors in Starkville's increase in collected sales tax. "I don't even look at the numbers on a monthly basis anymore. I look at the receipts annually. It is very hard to pinpoint a single event. I do know that we are continuing to trend up and that's a good thing. Starkville continues to grow and the sales tax continues to increase. We have been getting some additional stores and restaurants. If I had to come up with a definitive answer, I would say that's it because of the continued growth and the special events sponsored by the city or Mississippi State University."
State records show Starkville automotive sales increasing from $1,380,512 to $1,849,143 from February 2012 to March 2012. During the same time period, food sales were up from $10,197,355 to $12,018,454 and machinery and equipment sales lept from $626,753 to $930,609. Virtually every other industry was up in March.
Neighboring counties to the Golden Triangle also saw an increase in sales tax collections for the month of March. Noxubee County saw an increase from $327,744 in February to $373,038 in March. It also increased from $341,967 in March 2011.