NEWS HEADLINES

County hits sales tax jackpot

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, March 15, 2014

Seven cities in Wise County showed a decrease in sales tax revenue for March, while five were up compared to last year.

But the big story for March is the county.

Sales Tax

Wise County is allowed to levy a half-cent sales tax to help offset property tax increases. That tax yielded $627,386 in March – up more than 72 percent compared to the $364,332 it brought in last March.

That windfall brings the county’s total for the year so far to $1,426,938, compared to $1,192,120 after three months last year – nearly a 20 percent improvement.

What’s behind that number?

Lauren Willis of the state comptroller’s office said it’s oil and gas related.

“The increase is due to large increases in taxable purchases reported by companies in the oil and gas industry,” she said.

State officials cannot disclose individual sales taxpayer information to the public, so that is as far as Willis could go.

The county’s windfall apparently has nothing to do with the $650,000 payback the state recently demanded from the city of Bridgeport due to an overpayment by a business there between 2005 and 2008. The city is still seeking additional information and weighing its options.

Willis did say that Bridgeport’s situation was also related to the oil and gas industry.

“The oil and gas industry is moving at such a torrid pace that the companies routinely accrue and pay tax on everything and then go back and re-evaluate the items for correct sales tax application later,” she noted. “This can result in companies filing for large refunds down the road. That is what happened in the Bridgeport situation.”

Meanwhile, the City of Bridgeport actually had a pretty good March.

The city took in $220,774 for the month, down just over 1 percent compared to last March. Bridgeport is still more than 21 percent behind last year’s pace but continues to budget sales tax revenue carefully to keep city operations on track.

In Decatur, the March payment was down 2.6 percent compared to last year, but the city is still up 2.4 percent compared to last year.

Rhome and New Fairview saw double-digit drops in March, but Boyd, Chico, Newark, Runaway Bay and Aurora were all up for the month.

For the year, in addition to Decatur, the cities of Rhome, Boyd, Chico, Alvord, Paradise, Runaway Bay and Aurora all show gains compared to last year.

Combined, however, the county’s 12 cities have collected 4.8 percent less in sales tax revenue this year. That’s a drop of almost $109,000.

Statewide, sales tax revenue grew for the 47th consecutive month.

“Sales tax revenue continues its growth streak,” Comptroller Susan Combs said. “Growth in tax collections was seen across all major economic sectors including oil and gas, wholesale trade and the services sector.”

Cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose districts collected a total of $553 million in March, up 4.1 percent compared to March 2013.

The March sales tax figures represent January sales reported by monthly tax filers.

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