Sales tax revenues stay steady, despite virus

By: 
Adam Rollins
Staff Writer

The economic impact of COVID-19 has been a looming worry for many over the past three months. That includes local governments, who rely on retail sales taxes to provide much of their funding.

But despite concerns, sales tax reports from the height of COVID-related business closings March through May showed consistent revenue for local governments.

The city of Warrenton, for example, was closely on track with its forecasted sales tax income at the end of May.

City Administrator Terri Thorn said June 2 that sales from local grocery stores were making up for lost revenue from other businesses.

“We spent a lot of time looking at sales taxes and projections,” Thorn told city aldermen June 2. “I am pleased that the increased grocery (sales) over the last couple months have actually surpassed those things that we were not collecting on.”

By far the largest beneficiary of sales taxes in this county, Warrenton collected $239,000 in sales taxes in March, slightly up from February, according to sales tax reports provided by the city. COVID-related business closings began in the second half of March.

In April, Warrenton aldermen froze spending on all non-essential public works projects, fearing that state and local restrictions to fight COVID-19 could cause a significant drop in sales taxes. That drop came, but was more mild than feared.

April’s sales tax revenue dipped to $214,000, during the only month when COVID-related restrictions were fully in effect. That put Warrenton 2 percent behind on its total sales tax revenue forecast for the year.

By May, sales tax income in Warrenton had rebounded to $283,000, putting the city slightly over its budget projections.

“That’s all as well as we could hope for, given everything that’s happened,” Thorn commented.

In June, Warrenton aldermen began resuming public projects that had been delayed.

These sales tax numbers for Warrenton exclude sales taxes that were collected specifically to repay the city’s debt for its western Interstate 70 interchange.

Wright City’s sales tax revenue held steady March through May, according to data from the city. Like Warrenton, Wright City ended May with sales tax revenue slightly ahead of its budget forecast.

Wright City actually started this year behind, with sales tax revenue falling more than 10-percent short of estimates for January and February. But the city collected about $33,000 in both March and April, and over $36,000 in May, which put Wright City back on track for the year.

The trend was true in Truesdale as well, where sales taxes for March through May were on par with previous years. Sales tax reports show $9,600 was collected for the city’s general fund sales tax in March, $14,700 in April, and $10,400 in May.

Truesdale ended its fiscal year in June with a higher total sales tax revenue than the two years prior, its data shows.

The Warren County government saw its sales tax revenue drop from March into April, but rebound strongly in May. The county collected $152,000, $128,000, and almost $185,000, respectively, over those three months. That contrasts favorably to 2018 and 2019, when the county’s sales tax income had a noticeable drop in May, according to county sales tax data.

The city of Marthasville had not responded to a request to review its sales tax data as of press time.

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