A string of six strong months of sales tax collections was broken when Livingston Parish limped through July with lackluster numbers.
Only a 10 percent jump in motor vehicle sales tax receipts kept the parish from dipping into negative territory for the first time since October.
Collections for the Parish Council and Sheriff’s Office were flat, and the School Board managed less than a 1 percent increase over the previous year.
Sales tax receipts for the city of Denham Springs dropped 4 percent when compared with the previous year.
When combined, all of the local agencies in the parish collected only 1 percent more than in the previous July after six straight months in which they brought in from 5 to 8 percent more than they had in the previous year.
That included an 11 percent increase for Walker, where Mayor Bobby Font said things are booming, partly because of the construction of an Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center facility scheduled to open next fall and the fact that it is drawing other businesses to the area.
Mike Curtis, who heads the parish’s sales tax collection program said he’s not alarmed by the July slowdown that affected almost all of the rest of the parish.
“We’ll start climbing again,” Curtis said, adding that parish government collections for July, which reflect retail sales in June, are usually not great.
“I don’t see it turning back to what it was” in the recent down years, he said. “I think retail sales will continue to be strong.”
In addition to that optimism about retails sales, a number of large businesses are scheduled for sales tax audits this year in the three-year audit cycle, Curtis said.
“This is our year for some of the bigger audits,” he said, adding that when those come up, the parish generally gains a good bit in back taxes.
July 2010 sales tax receipts also showed only a 1 percent gain, Curtis said.
Indeed, that started a trend of low numbers that, by the end of the first quarter, left the parish below the collections of the previous year.
Only eight positive months in a row, including a particularly strong second half, got the parish to a little more than $65 million in collections, which was 3 percent above the $62.9 million collected during the previous fiscal year.
The 3 percent increase is exactly what the School Board projected, according to Curtis, who is employed by the board.
Curtis said he has projected a 4 percent increase in sales tax collections for that board, which has been faced with tight state funding, for the current fiscal year.
He said that projection is conservative and doesn’t include any additional incomes produced by the Sam’s Club now under construction in Denham Springs and only one month from the Wal-Mart being built in Watson, even though they may contribute more than that.
“You always want to be pleasantly surprised rather than bitterly disappointed,” he said.
For Denham Springs, Mayor Jimmy Durbin said the city stuck with a sales tax budget that is about the same as last year.
He said he wasn’t concerned about the 4 percent decrease in the receipts for July.
There weren’t a lot of special events going on that would have brought in additional taxes he said.
“I think we are holding our own in Denham Springs,” he said.