Is Wages right? Sales tax down in River Falls

Published 12:25 am Friday, April 8, 2016

Overall tax collections in River Falls are down 10 percent for the first three months of the calendar year, while the number of court cases is down from 2015.

The Star-News requested the figures after River Falls City Councilman Gary Wages on Tuesday raised a concern that the town was policing for profit and profiling youth, and driving traffic – and business – away in the process.

Sales tax collections in the town were down only $1,962 for the first quarter of calendar year 2016, but the number represents 10 percent of the town’s total sales tax revenue for the same period last year, records show.

January’s local sales tax was down roughly $1,250.

In 2015, the town collected $7,378 and in 2016, it collected $6,128, a 17 percent decrease.

In February, collections were up $686 over 2015’s collections. In 2015, the town collected $5,161 and this year, it collected $5,847, a 13 percent increase.

March’s collections are down from $7,898 last year to $6,500 this year, and 18 percent decrease.

Other tax collections are holding steady over 2015 for the first three months of the year.

For January, the town collected $478.32. In January 2015, that number was $446.74.

Those totals include 4, 5, and 7-cent gas taxes, petroleum fees, motor vehicle license tax.

For February, the town collected $442.68 compared to $428.50 in February 2015.

In March, the town collected $457.99 and in March 2015 it collected $455.59.

The court system has also decreased its contributions to the general fund from 2015 to 2016 when comparing the first three months.

City Clerk Maryann Andrews said that the number of tickets and arrests for the first three months is about half of what it was in 2015.

Andrews said the amount given to the general fund is dependent upon what the offense is and that it is different for each offense.

For January through March 2015, the court system gave $8,660 to the general fund, while this year only $4,161 has been given for the same time period.

Wages said Tuesday several people have come to him and mentioned that they do not travel through River Falls anymore due to so much stopping.

Wages, who is a business owner, was concerned about running off potential customers and losing tax money.

“The reason River Falls has $500,000 in the bank accounts is because people are buying gas, cigarettes and beer,” he said. “My business is off last year and was off from the year before, but that could be mine and my employees’ fault.”

Wages has long been concerned with the town having the reputation for excessive stopping.

In 2014, he went on record opposing the purchase of drug dogs for the town.

“I don’t want River Falls to be known as the area who stops everyone,” he said.

Mayor Patricia Gunter said she didn’t know of anything in particular that was causing the slight drop in sales tax.

“I think my husband’s business has also been down some, but I just figure it’s the economy,” she said.