Hurricane drives sales tax figures up

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 14, 2005

September 2004 may not have seemed like a good month for the city of Greenville, especially when you consider most residents were in the dark from getting the sharp end of Hurricane Ivan, but sales tax numbers released this week by the city show business was good in September. As a matter of fact, it was very good.

&uot;The storms generated massive payrolls and revenue for tradesmen and repair companies,&uot; said Linda Vanden Bosch, city clerk for the City of Greenville.

Greenville’s latest sales tax figures show that sales tax revenue, the city’s largest income producing source, was up nearly $105,000 in September 2004, a 29 percent increase over September 2003.

The city clerk’s office shows that in 2003 a total of $356,881.44 was collected for September sales taxes.

A year later, that amount jumped to $461,184.78.

&uot;These figures reflect the amount collected from the state in November for September purchases,&uot; Vanden Bosch said.

&uot;It’s obvious there was an increase in sales tax revenues from September 2003 to September 2004.&uot;

Hurricane Ivan hit Butler County on Sept. 16, 2004.

In the days leading up to the disaster many stores remained opened 24-hours to accommodate evacuees fleeing from the Florida and Alabama Gulf Coast areas.

Convenience stores along I-65 were virtually emptied from people buying gas, snacks and other items.

On Sept. 17, as soon as power was restored, many stores reopened and were jam packed with people buying supplies, including ice, chain saws and other non-perishable food items.

Vanden Bosch agrees that the storm played a role in the revenue increase.

&uot;As bad as it was, storms are good for the economy,&uot; she said. &uot;They make you spend money.

Storms make you eat out more.

They make you buy tools and dry goods.

They’ll make you put that new roof on your home when you’ve been saying you’d make do.&uot;

Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon said it is obvious others are coming to town to spend money, and Ivan likely forced more than normal into the area.

&uot;I’m excited to see the numbers that are coming in,&uot; he said.

&uot;It’s obvious that people from other counties were coming to Greenville and spending their money here.

With a 29 percent increase, it’s obvious this is new money coming in from other places.&uot;

He said a city’s collection rate does not go up 29 percent from an existing base.

&uot;I think Hurricane Ivan had a lot to do with it, but how much, I don’t know,&uot; he said.

&uot;But I think from other numbers we’re seeing that we’ll be up in other months in the last quarter as well.&uot;

The mayor said he is anxious to see the Christmas shopping season numbers.

&uot;I’ve heard that some of the stores did really well in the last few months of the year, so we should finish the year on a very high economic note,&uot; he said.

The City of Georgiana likely will not see any major increases in tax revenues for September 2004.

That was the word from City Clerk Barbara Clem.

She noted that unlike Greenville, Georgiana doesn’t have the chain eateries or motels.

&uot;It wouldn’t have affected us, because no one came into town to stay in motels, because we don’t have motels,&uot; she said.

She said if there was an increase, it was likely minimal.

According to the National Retail Association, some national industries such as car lots and mobile home dealers saw their sales fall in September, but hardware stores and &uot;mom and pop&uot; retailers saw increases in sales.

Locally, hotel occupancy was high prior to and after Ivan hit the county as rooms were filled with people racing to get away from the storms and then filled by those who were working to get the county back in shape.