Sales tax up in most cities

Summer is off to a pretty good start for most Wise County cities – at least when it comes to sales tax.

The June payment from the State Comptroller’s office, representing April sales reported to the state in May, was better than last year’s in 10 of the county’s 12 cities.

Boyd was the only city that saw a big drop in June, collecting $32,054 with its 1.5-cent sales tax compared to $50,638 in the same month last year – a 36.7 percent drop. Paradise’s June payment was off just $36.

Everyone else got a boost in June, from 1.26 percent in Lake Bridgeport to 56 percent in Aurora.

The bigger cities of Decatur and Bridgeport saw modest increases, 4.6 percent in Decatur and 1.49 percent in Bridgeport. For the year, Decatur is three-quarters of a percent, or $15,578, ahead of 2013, while Bridgeport remains 13 percent behind.

Despite healthy increases in June, both Rhome and New Fairview also remain behind last year by 3.4 and 9.3 percent, respectively.

The rest of the county’s smaller cities are ahead of 2013, with increases ranging from Boyd’s 1.8 percent to Newark’s lofty 130.8 percent.

As a whole, Wise County’s 12 cities are down $101,675 – 2.26 percent – from last year. Factoring out Bridgeport’s $203,547 deficit, the other 11 cities are up $101,872 – a respectable 3.4 percent.

Statewide, 1,148 cities have picked up just under $2.5 billion from the sales tax so far this year, running 7 percent ahead of last year.

Wise County, which collects a half-cent, saw their payment drop 15.2 percent in June, from last year’s $446,280 to $378,274. That brings the county’s year-to-date total to $2,577,551, up 2.77 percent over last year’s.

Comptroller Susan Combs said sales tax growth statewide was evident across all major sectors of the economy.

“The growth was led by the retail and wholesale trade sectors, the oil and natural gas mining sector, and the services sector,” she said. “This marks the 50th consecutive month of increased state sales tax revenues, and brings the fiscal year-to-date growth to 5.4 percent.”

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Newark hits sales tax jackpot in May

A “large audit payment” by a company in Newark resulted in a May sales tax windfall for the city.

According to figures released this week by the State Comptrollers’ office, Newark’s 1.5-cent sales tax brought in $72,730 in May. That’s more than three-quarters as much as the city collected for the entire year of 2013.

The city averages about $7,800 a month.

R.J. DeSilva, spokesperson for the comptroller’s office, said the monthly increase was due to a large audit payment by a company – but reminded readers that sales tax information for individual companies is confidential under the law.

City secretary Diane Rasor said the comptroller’s office told her one of their auditors had originally placed the taxpayer in the wrong category.

“Probably they had them outside the city limits,” she said. “Once they discovered the error, they notified the taxpayer, and they got a check this week for $65,798. It’s a one-time increase.”

The city uses a half-cent of its sales tax revenue to reduce property taxes, and the rest goes into the general fund budget. Once the council gets the news, they will determine whether to use the funds for something special, or just keep them in reserve.

With the big May payment, Newark in five months has already surpassed what it collected in all of 2013 and jumped from ninth in the county to seventh, moving ahead of Alvord and Paradise.

Three Wise County cities showed a drop in monthly payments for May, and three were still in negative territory for the year.

Rhome, New Fairview and Paradise saw their May rebate slip from last year’s. Rhome’s was down nearly $20,000 or 37 percent, while New Fairview’s was down more than $13,000 or 35 percent.

Paradise also slipped behind for the month, with a rebate of $10,422 – down 6 percent from last May. But the city is still in the black for the year.

Bridgeport, which actually experienced a gain this month compared to last year, remains down for the year by 16.06 percent.

Wise County, which gets a half-cent sales tax to help reduce property taxes, showed a 16.6 percent decline in May but remains 6.6 percent ahead for the year so far, with nearly $2.2 million in the bank through five months.

Comptroller Susan Combs said state sales tax revenue in April was $2.27 billion, up 5.6 percent compared to April 2013.

“Growth in sales tax revenue was spurred by increases in the telecommunications sector and services sector,” she said. “Increased business spending in the wholesale trade sector also contributed to the latest monthly gain. This marks 49 consecutive months of growth in sales tax collections.”

Combs sent cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose districts May allocations totaling $716 million, up 7.1 percent compared to May 2013.

Those figures represent monthly sales made in March as well as January, February and March sales by businesses that report tax quarterly.

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Bigs down, smalls up in county sales tax income

After a weak April, three of Wise County’s top four cities are running below last year in sales tax income.

But with the exception of Newark, 2014 is off to a rosy start for the rest of the county.

Decatur slipped below the water for the year with an 11.3 percent drop in April – taking in $290,207 compared to $327,149 in the same period last year.

Bridgeport trumped that with a 15 percent deficit. The city took in $208,150 after collecting $245,000 last year.

For the year, Decatur is eight-tenths of a percent behind last year while Bridgeport is almost 20 percent behind.

Rhome had a 7.8 percent loss for the month, but still checks in with a 7.5-percent gain for the year overall.

That’s about how far behind New Fairview is after a nearly 12-percent decline for April. But Boyd, Chico, Alvord, Paradise, Runaway Bay, Aurora and Lake Bridgeport are all up for the year – from Boyd’s 24.6 percent to 7.8 percent in Alvord.

The sales tax figures represent the cities’ share of February sales reported in March by monthly tax filers.

Wise County, which gets a half-cent, is up 14.2 percent for the year after a slight loss in April.

Statewide, cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts’ allocations were up 6.2 percent compared to April 2013.

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County hits sales tax jackpot

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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Bridgeport sales tax numbers not the whole story

The second set of sales tax numbers for 2014 went public Wednesday – and they don’t look great for the city of Bridgeport.

Bridgeport took in $228,332 from the sales tax in February, down nearly 30 percent from last year’s $323,256. After two months, the city already trails last year’s collections by $170,248 or 28.7 percent.

But those numbers don’t tell the whole story.

It’s difficult to pinpoint what’s behind the two-year sales tax decline in Wise County’s second-largest market. By law, the state can’t reveal the numbers for individual businesses, although a spokesman in the Comptroller’s office said most of the February decrease was attributable to two companies that reported lower sales tax on purchases or sales compared to the same time last year.

We can, however, illustrate how the city budgets sales tax revenue to deal with the shortfall.

For starters, the city only gets 1 cent of that 1.5-cent sales tax. A half-cent goes to the Economic Development Corp. (EDC).

It also helps to understand that the city’s budget is written based on a fiscal year that starts in October. If you reach back and take in the last three months of 2013, things look much better this fiscal year because November and December were strong months.

But City Administrator Brandon Emmons said, given the declining trend, the city budgeted a 15-percent decline in sales tax revenue this year.

Consequently, through five months the city is actually ahead of budget.

“Right now, for the fiscal year, we’ve actually met or exceeded our projected amounts in every month except for the last month, when we were under budget by $15,000,” he said. “Through five months of this fiscal year, we’re about $15,000 a month ahead of budget.

“We budgeted $145,000 a month, and we’re averaging $158,000 so far.”

Emmons said sales tax money goes into the city’s general fund, which supports the police department, city hall, the library, parks and streets. The city’s other big functions – water, wastewater and electricity – are managed separately and funded by the revenue they generate.

They don’t depend on sales taxes at all.

And while sales taxes fund 34 percent of that general fund budget, the city’s total budget for FY 2013-2014 is $22.424 million. Sales taxes make up less than 10 percent of the overall budget.

So, despite the dire numbers, Bridgeport is OK.

“With the trends we’ve identified and the arrangements we’ve made, we’re doing fine from an operational standpoint,” Emmons said.

He also noted that the city has contingency policies, adopted annually as part of the budget, that specify how administration will respond to drops in sales tax revenue.

“We have those policies built-in, but we don’t expect to have to do that this year because we’ve already accounted for that in the budget,” he said.

February sales tax figures represent December sales reported by monthly tax filers, as well as October, November and December sales by businesses that report quarterly.

It’s likely the major ice storm early in December cut into businesses’ Christmas sales throughout the county, even in cities that saw a gain.

Bridgeport, New Fairview, Chico and Newark all saw declines in sales tax revenue through the February reporting period. The county’s other eight cities saw increases – from Decatur’s 4.4 to 40 percent in Lake Bridgeport, 29 percent in Paradise, 28 percent in Rhome, 27 percent in Alvord and 24 percent in Aurora.

The county’s half-cent sales tax brought in $477,666 – up nearly 10 percent compared to a year ago. That left the county trailing last year by just 3.4 percent after two months.

Statewide, sales tax revenue in January was $2.3 billion, up 8.3 percent compared to January 2013.

State Comptroller Susan Combs said sales tax revenue has increased statewide for 46 consecutive months.

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Bridgeport, Chico finish ’13 strong

When the final sales tax numbers came in for 2013, 10 Wise County cities showed a gain – and the two that didn’t showed signs of a turnaround.

Of all the cities that collect a sales tax, only Bridgeport and Chico ended 2013 with a loss compared to 2012. Bridgeport was down $230,391 – just under 7 percent – while Chico fell short by $34,785 or 12.2 percent.

But just two months ago, Bridgeport was in a 9.8-percent hole. The city’s losses moderated over the last few months, and December brought a gain of 23 percent over the same month the previous year.

Bridgeport’s 1.5-cent sales tax brought in $343,303 this month, up from $297,144 last year.

The trend is encouraging.

Up in Chico, the sales tax went from $19,927 last December to $25,850 this December – a gain of nearly 30 percent. Over the past four months, the city’s deficit has narrowed from 19 percent to 12.2 percent.

The county’s other 10 cities collected over $300,000 more in 2013 than they did the previous year. Factor out Bridgeport and Chico, and they gained a respectible 5.7 percent compared to 2012.

Decatur had the biggest gain, dollar-wise, at $91,560 or 2.34 percent. New Fairview picked up $65,000 additional dollars from its sales tax and Boyd saw an additional $56,786 added to its coffers – with both cities’ gains topping 21 percent.

Paradise had a 42.8 percent gain and pocketed $33,155 more than last year, and Aurora, with growth of 97 percent, boosted its sales tax earnings from $23,419 last year to $46,193 this year.

Altogether, Wise County’s 12 cities were up $36,024 from last year – less than one-half of one percent.

The county’s half-cent sales tax yielded nearly $4.9 million, but that was down 4.3 percent compared to last year’s $5.1 million.

Statewide, 1,145 cities collected $4.7 billion in sales taxes, up 6.13 percent – more than $273 million – over 2012.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said December was the 44th straight month in which sales tax revenue was up.

“State sales tax revenue continues to grow at a moderate pace as expected,” Combs said. “Revenue from sectors such as wholesale trade, services industries and restaurants contributed to the most recent increase.”

The December sales tax figures represent October sales reported by monthly tax filers.

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