Two of Slidell's three economic development districts generated more revenue than anticipated from the half-cent sales tax levied in each, and the city is taking that into account in budgets for the Fremaux Town Center and Camellia Square districts for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
But North Shore Square, once the city's premier shopping area, showed flat collections during the current fiscal year, and city officials are predicting a drop in collections in the next, reflecting the continued loss of stores in the mall that was built in the 1980s, and J.C. Penney, which is slated to close at the end of July.
The Slidell City Council met in special session May 23 to revise the 2016-17 budgets for the three economic development districts and to adopt the budgets for the coming fiscal year.
Fremaux Town Center, the huge shopping center on the south side of Slidell, was projected to bring in $528,000 in revenue from a half-cent sales tax at its stores this fiscal year. The retail development, which opened in 2014, brought in $585,000 in revenue. That same amount is projected in the 2017-2018 budget that the City Council adopted.
Camellia Square, Slidell's first economic development district, also saw a bump in collections from its half-cent sales tax this fiscal year, from $93,000 to $97,000. The upcoming budget is projecting that the area will collect $97,000 again in the coming fiscal year.
But while North Shore Square mall was able to meet its projected $180,000 in sales tax collections, the budget for next fiscal year projects a $25,000 drop, to $154,600.
The mall has lost a number of anchor stores, with Sears closing in 2014, followed more recently by Dillard's move to Fremaux Town Center, although that retailer has retained an outlet store at the old mall. Burlington Coat Factory also closed earlier this year.
J.C. Penney, which had been planning to close its Slidell store in June, extended it to July 31. When J.C. Penney announced its imminent closure, Slidell Mayor Freddy Drennan blamed national trends that have hurt big box retailers.
Slidell Clerk of Council Thomas Reeves said the lower projection is not specifically linked to J.C. Penney but to the continued loss of stores in the mall generally. That has been the trend over the last couple of years with stores leaving North Shore Square to move to Fremaux Town Center, he said.
North Shore Square's economic development district was created in late 2014 to help pay for a revamping of the mall. At the time, city officials said that revenue from the half-cent tax could be used to make changes to the aging property and perhaps court new anchor tenants.
But Reeves said that nothing has been done with the money yet, and the mall owners have not brought forward any plans.
The Slidell City Council also voted to authorize the mayor to execute an agreement with the state to install new lighting on a runway at the Slidell Airport and to remove some trees.
Richard Artigue, airport manager, said that the LED lights are brighter and more energy efficient and will save the city money.
The state Department of Transportation and Development is paying for the $40,000 project.