The Bigger Picture

Sales tax data illustrates county’s role as retail hub

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor

May 15, 2007 - Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County both saw nice little increases in sales tax collections this month, but that only tells part of the story.

The city's share of sales tax dollars from the state comptroller's office this month came to $430,387.28, up 2.87 percent from one year ago.

For the year, the city's sales tax rebates are up 3.83 percent to $1.81 million. While the percentage increase isn't huge, it comes after much larger percentage increases in recent years, City Finance Director Peter Karstens pointed out last month.

Hopkins County's half-cent sales tax brought in $155,542.88 this month, up 8.69 percent. The county's sales tax dollars are up 6.32 percent so far this year at $674,914.07.

But there's a bigger picture involving how much money retail spending generates per capita, and in that arena, Hopkins County ranks right up there with much larger places like Harris, Denton and Kaufman counties.

What these numbers indicate is that Hopkins County — like those bigger metropolitan areas — serves as a regional hub of retail activity for a larger population base.

For first five months of this year, based on the latest available population data from the U.S. Census Bureau, per capita sales tax dollars generated in Hopkins County is at $55.81. Put another way, that's the equivalent of every man, woman and child spending $1,116.20 per month on taxable goods.

And that's a staggering sum, considering that the 2000 census put per capita income in Hopkins County at $1,431 per month.

Hopkins County doesn't have the highest ratio of population to sales tax dollars in the immediate area — that distinction goes to Titus County at $66.92,with Lamar County not far behind at $60.21.

Yet there is a significant gap between those three counties and their surrounding neighbors, and that suggests that places like Sulphur Springs, Mount Pleasant and Paris serve as the regional retail hubs for the surrounding populations.

Hopkins County, for example, is surrounded by Hunt, Delta, Franklin, Rains and Wood counties. After Hopkins County, Hunt has the highest per capita sales tax figure at $39.80, but the numbers drop even more sharply after that — Rains County, $32.90; Wood County, $31.68; Franklin County, $21.71; and Delta County, the lowest in the region at $7.26.

Likewise, Titus County borders both Red River County ($16.70) and Camp County, where the rate is $33.38 per person. Franklin Countyalso  lies between Titus and Hopkins.

Fannin County, which borders Lamar to the west, registers $24.80, while two other border counties have the lowest per capita sales tax totals in the region — Red River County to the east, Delta County to the south. That doesn't even take into account the dollars that come in from Hugo, Okla., just across the Red River from Lamar County.

Certainly, other factors undoubtedly come into play, such as the size of the labor force. On the other hand, the number of jobs in Wood County is slightly higher than Hopkins County, while Hunt County has more than twice as many people employed — yet both far fall below in retail spending per capita.

The sale of alcohol might also play a role. Hopkins, Lamar and Titus counties all have municipalities that allow the sale of beer, wine and alcohol. A look at the impact those sales have on Cumby's sales tax figures, which rose from about $24,000 in 2003, the last year before the vote to allow the sale of alcohol, to more than $125,000 in 2006.

But that alone only adds about $1.25 to the per capita spending in Hopkins County.

Income levels don't explain it, either. Hopkins County's per capita monthly income based on the 2000 census is $1,431. But Wood County was at $1,475.17, and Franklin County's per capita income was $1,463.58.

A more likely explanation? Hopkins County, Titus County and Lamar County all serve as important economic destinations for their neighbors.

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