Sales steady in first month of tax

Published 1:06 am Friday, September 6, 2013

Reports show Andalusia’s 1.5 percent sales tax increase implemented in July didn’t keep shoppers out of the stores.

The figures represent sales made in July, with the taxes remitted by merchants in August. Assistant County Administrator Pam Steele said, $662,049 in sales tax was remitted by county merchants for that period – a less than 1 percent increase over the $653,756 collected during the same period last year.

“If you look at our year-to-date collections, we’re sitting right at just over $7.7 million, and that represents a 7.13 percent increase over last year’s total at this time of $7.2 million,” Steele said.

In Andalusia, city clerk John Thompson said that the city received $554,850 – a $239,165 increase from the period total last year of $315,685.

The total is the first reporting period that reflects the 1.5 percent increase that raised city sales tax from 2 percent to 3.5 percent. The city council approved the increase in May.

The move is expected to raise an additional $3 million per year. One percent of the additional sales tax, or approximately $2 million, will first be used by the city as matching funds for grants – specifically for a more than $10 million ATRIP grant to rehabilitate South Three Notch Street.

The remaining one-half percent, or about $1 million per year, will go to the Andalusia City School System.

“If you remove the 1.5 percent increase that took effect July 1, you would see a .5 percent increase over the same period last year,” Thompson said.

And that’s great news, said Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson.

“This proves that the Andalusia economy is strong and growing and continues to grow,” he said. “It’s good news for a variety of reasons – it provides us with resources to strengthen education, as well as infrastructure projects, including first and foremost the South Three Notch project, which is the reason behind the sales tax increase.

“Despite naysayers’ predictions, no one chose to shop outside of Andalusia or change their shopping habits because of the sales tax increase,” he said. “And that’s wonderful to see.”

Thompson said that July is a “slower month” in terms of collections, and that he is anxious to see numbers reported in September.

“July was one of the wettest months on record, so I would think it would slow retail,” he said. “Local folks won’t get out and tourists don’t want to pull off in the rain. In spite of all that, we still showed improvement. We should show solid improvement during September for obvious reason since it represents August sales – back to school shopping and beach trips.”

Year-to-date collections are at just over $4 million – a 9 percent increase over the nearly $3.7 collected in 2012.

“And we still have one month of reporting to go,” he said.