May 20, 2013 10:24:32 AM
Carl Smith - [email protected]
Starkville's 2 percent food and beverage tax returns improved in March, a sign the city's first Restaurant Week helped stimulate the local economy, organizers said.
March was Starkville's highest grossing month this year in terms of 2 percent returns. The city had averaged about $132,000 per month until it collected $142,697.36 in March. It was the second highest March return ever recorded by the city.
Those improved returns have a lot to do with the inaugural Starkville Restaurant Week, Greater Starkville Development Partnership CEO Jennifer Gregory said. The March 18-24 event, which organizers used to market Starkville as a dining location, featured more than 30 participating restaurants' unique cuisine.
Immediately following the event, many local dining establishments reported a 20 percent increase in business over the week. At least 10,000 ballots were cast by diners who helped choose a local winner from a charity competition.
March's 2 percent increase also builds upon an 11.52 percent jump from March 2011 to March 2012. Comparatively, this year's March figure is a 5.29 percent increase from last year's number.
"By maintaining that (previous March) growth and increasing by 5 percent, we feel that is extremely telling of the continuing support by our community to eat local and also the overall success of the first restaurant week," Gregory said. "We were anxious to see what economic impact that would have on the community, and I think it's safe to say it had a big one."
Overall, Starkville sales tax numbers have trended higher each month of 2013. In 2012, the city saw a $3,000 dip in numbers from February to March, but this year Starkville took in almost $16,000 more in the same time frame, posting approximately $491,545.50 in non-2 percent returns.
In February, the city collected $475,222.71 in non-2 percent monies, a .89 percent decline from the previous year's month, which marked the highest sales tax return for that specific month.
Starkville saw its biggest improvement with March's hotel tax returns. That figure jumped 11.76 percent from March 2012 to $11,378.17. February's number was down 5.33 percent from last year, but the city still took in almost $5 more in March.
A portion of the 2 percent tax returns to the city, while the remainder is split between various organizations, including tourism initiatives, Starkville Parks and Recreation and Mississippi State University student programs.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch