Retail activity showing signs of leveling out
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

July 14, 2005 -- Economic growth that Sulphur Springs has enjoyed over the past year and a half has slowed somewhat, according to the monthly report from the state comptroller's office detailing sales tax rebates.

In the July report, which reflects retail sales for the month of May, sales slowed to 1.22 percent less than in the same month of last year. Sulphur Springs' sales tax rebate in the amount of $284,095 is down more than $3,000 from the same period in 2004.

For the year, however, overall growth in retail sales remains on the positive side with a 1.24 percent increase over the first five months of 2004.

For the first seven months of this year, the city has collected more than $2.12 million in sales tax money, compared to $2.094 million at this time one year ago.

The increasing trend in retail sales over the past 18 months is attributed in part to several new businesses, according to Peter Karstens, finance director for the city.

"Historically, we have a pretty steady economy," Karstens said. "Then we had a couple of new stores move in -- Lowe's, the theater and Chili's -- those kinds of activities created an 18-month period of time where things were definitely trending up sharply."

Over the last six months, Karstens said, retail sales have leveled out to the point the city has neither gained or lost.

The same is not true for Cumby, where voters approved sales of alcoholic beverages as a means to generate revenues for street repairs and improvements to the water system.

The sales of alcoholic beverages has frequently kept retail sales growth figures above 100 percent since the sales began.

Cumby's sales tax rebate check this month in the amount of $6,172.20 reflects an increase in retail sales of almost 105 percent.

Voters in Cumby also approved a .25 percent increase in the town's sales tax rate that came into play at the first of the year. Another quarter-cent increase that will offset property taxes will become effective later this year.

Retail sales growth in Como, meanwhile, has been dragging over the past several years but is now beginning to show signs of improvement. Como's sales tax rebate check for $2,062.19 is up more than 20 percent from the same period in 2004.

Como also saw a dramatic increase in the June sales tax figures which was attributed to retailers that file reports on a quarterly, rather than monthly, basis.

Officials in Como also said the addition of one or two new businesses is also playing a role in that town's financial health.

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