For at least the sixth consecutive month, gross sales tax revenue collected by Greene County has outstripped those of the previous year.
According to information made available by Greene County Treasurer Debbie Cross, the $568,979 in gross revenue the county reported as collected in October for December was 8.97 percent more than the $522,155 collected 12 months ago.
Going back to July (which the report reflected May figures), the total revenues collected month by month have exceeded those collected for the same month in 2019 by anywhere from 7.89 percent (collected in September and reported in November) to 14.92 percent (in June for August). As previously reported, the two-month lag represents collection in the earlier month, remission to the state the next month and return of turnback funds the month after.
Figures Cross made available to county officials and the media also showed year-to-date sales tax gross receipts for the county have exceeded the previous year’s year-to-date receipts since at least July. The percentage by which the total exceeded that of the previous year ranged from 6.91 percent in July to 8.75 percent in September. The percentage for December was 8.6 percent.
And Cross has a pretty good idea why the revenues have increased despite restrictions imposed by, and precautions taken in response to, the COVID-19 public health emergency. “I don’t think people are actually spending more,” she said Thursday, “but it’s where they are spending it.”
Instead of traveling to places like Jonesboro, Memphis or Little Rock to shop, the treasurer said, people are staying at home to shop.
“People are shopping in Greene County,” Cross said, “and I think they are doing a lot of online shopping from their homes.”
The state of Arkansas, along with other states, now requires companies that sell goods to Arkansas residents collect and remit the state and local sales taxes to the governmental entities which have levied them. Thus, tax money spent on items that might have been bought in other cities absent COVID-19 comes directly back to Greene County, instead of going to Craighead (Jonesboro), Pulaski (Little Rock) or Shelby (Memphis, Tenn.) Counties.
Cross said the additional sales tax revenues are most welcome, in light of decreases in revenues from other sources. “Fines are down,” she said, “and officer fees are down, so we’re really thankful for the added tax revenue.”
Not only has the sales tax revenue exceeded what was taken in over the previous year, Cross said it has exceeded sales tax revenue projections for the year to date.
“I usually try to be conservative on projections,” she said, “to avoid getting the county into trouble should all of the projected revenue get appropriated and then the revenue doesn’t meet those projections.”
But the sales tax revenue that has come in, she said, is 9.22 percent more than what she projected. And Cross acknowledged the best news is probably still to be reported. “We aren’t seeing a whole lot of Christmas [sales tax money] yet,” she said, noting the two-month lag between collection and reporting.