Sales tax figures rise for fifth straight month

Numbers indicated retailers in the midst of a turnaround

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK, News-Telegram Managing Editor

Oct. 14, 2008 - Don't sound the death knell for the local economy just yet.

While sales tax rebates to the city -- a strong gauge of retail sales activity and one of the most reliable economic indicators for smaller cities -- have largely been flat this year, the figures for August indicate local businesses are in the midst of a turnaround.

The city's sales tax rebate check this month -- which reflects sales in August reported by businesses to the state comptroller in September -- were up 7.86 percent from the previous year, well above the statewide average of 1.43 percent.

The check, one-third of which goes to the Sulphur Springs-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation for its share of the sales tax pie, totaled $343,054.58.

The tax rebate also help bring the city's sales tax totals for the first 10 months of the year to $3.662 million, or 2.27 percent ahead of the same time in 2007.

More importantly, it was the fifth straight month the sales tax dollars had risen compared to the previous year after a 12-month period that saw the totals decrease more times than they increased.

From June of 2007 to May of 2008, the monthly sales tax figures, when compared to the same month the previous year, declined eight times and rose four times.

But the returns have climbed every month since then, and by a significant amount. Over the five-month period, the average increase from the year before has been $28,776. That number is comparable to the average monthly increase from 2005 to 2006, the last year that saw a signifcant rise in retail activity. The average increase that year was $28,813 a month.

Elsewhere in the county, Cumby's sales tax check this month of $11,131 was up 7.5 percent, while Como's was down 7.6 percent to $1,304. In both cases, the towns' year-to-date collections are about 10 percent ahead of the first 10 months of 2007. Cumby has received $117,983 this year, and Como $15,562.

Hopkins County also saw an increase in its 1 percent sales tax collections. The county's check of $125,009 was up 4.21 percent from a year ago. For the first 10 months of this year, the total collections are $1.319 million, a 0.28 percent increase.

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