The near shutdown of commerce in late March and most of April has had officials in Mississippi bracing for a significant hit to revenue as sales tax earnings filter down to municipalities, but it appears some area towns had a decent March after all.
McComb, Brookhaven and Osyka all reported decreases in March sales tax revenues, while Summit, Magnolia, Liberty, Gloster and Tylertown all took in more money compared to a year ago.
The Department of Revenue recently released its figures for sales tax revenues collected in March, which cities are receiving this month.
McComb’s sales tax revenue for March was $477,331, a 9.3% decrease compared to the $526,205 earned a year ago. Mayor Quordiniah Lockley said sales tax revenue was consistently under projections, and was down $90,000 for this fiscal year, but the coronavirus threw gas on the fire.
“This virus started about the middle of March, so that is the only explanation that I can give, but we have seen a decline since October,” Lockley said. “I don’t know if it is going to have an effect on our annual budget, but it will have an effect on our current budget.
“You can expect a 10% to 50% sales tax drop. Right now, we are running close to a $200,000 drop in sales taxes, and that requires an adjustment to your budget.”
Lockley said at worst, the city may have to cut employees’ hours or even lay off workers to help wrangle the budget back into a manageable position. The mayor said he has been in contact with other mayors across the state to discuss their solutions, and many have reported cutting their workforce by at least 20%.
“We are going to have to do something if the sales taxes are already down $90,000. We are going to have to look at cutting or look into doing something to make sure by Sept. 30, so that we have a balanced budget,” Lockley said, referring to the last day of the fiscal year. “We are going to do what we have to do because state law requires a balanced budget, so the board of mayor and selectmen will do what we have to do to make sure we follow the law.”
Summit Mayor Percy Robinson was happy to learn that his town was up 8.4% in sales tax revenue compared to this time last year despite the virus and its accompanied shutdown.
Summit took in $42,593, slightly more than the $39,309 earned in March 2019.
“Business was booming around that time. That was before everything went haywire,” he said. “This is very good for the town of Summit because we are so small.”
He said though the revenue for March started good, the virus slowed down many businesses in April.
“The one I am worried about is the April sales tax,” Robinson said. “Everything was shut down other than Ace (Hardware), the Piggly Wiggly and convenience stores.”
Since cities receive sales tax revenues two months after they were collected, Robinson and other mayors won’t know how big of a hit they’ll take from the state’s stay-at-home order that was in effect for most of April until those figures are released in June.
That being said, Robinson attributes much of the sales tax for March to both The Piggly Wiggly and Lyle Machinery, which sells high-dollar excavators and heavy machinery.
Robinson, like Lockley, said the town might have to make cuts if sales tax dries up too much.
“If we have to, you will be looking at cutting back on travel and cutting back on employees’ hours,” he said. “That is the last resort. We will have to take a look at the taxes for next month and the month after that before we look into making any cuts anywhere.”
Magnolia also had an increase in sales tax revenue for March, taking in $47,682, up 3.8% from the 45,929 earned last year.
Like McComb, Oyska saw a drop in March sales tax revenue, which was $5,950 compared to $7,070 it received in 2019.
And Brookhaven also saw a decrease, earning $491,245, down from $517,383 it received in March 2019.
Liberty reported an increase in sales tax revenue in March, taking in $25,141 compared to $21,456 in 2019.
Gloster also was up, earning $17,174 compared to $14,775 received in 2019.
Tylertown received $57,451, up from $55,049 earned in 2019.