Sales tax collections up despite slowdown
By: GEOFFREY STOUTE
MORGAN CITY — Sales tax collections in the fourth quarter of 2011 were down 9.8 percent from the same period in 2010, but collections for the year were up 2.6 percent.
St. Mary Parish Sales and Use Tax Administrator Barry Dufrene reported during Monday’s St. Mary Parish Council of Governments meeting that collections of the 4 percent sales tax, which included audits, were down 8.6 percent in October, down 15.9 percent in November and 4.6 percent in December.
However, because the parish posted double-digit increases in tax collections in five of the first six months, including 20.4 percent more in January and 21.4 percent more in February, the parish still finished the year with 2.6 percent more in tax collections than in 2010.
In the fourth quarter, though, the parish collected about $9.83 million compared to $10.89 million during the same period in 2010.
For the individual months, the parish collected about $3.63 million in October, roughly $3.01 million in November and $3.19 million in December.
For the year, tax collections totaled about $39.98 million, up from 2010 collection of approximately $38.99 million.
Dufrene noted that before sale tax collections began to dip in the third quarter of this past year — except for a slight spike in September — they had been on the upswing for the previous 13 months
That upward trend could be returning, though, because Dufrene said, according to preliminary January numbers, tax collections are 4 percent higher than they were in 2011. He said it appears the month may be one of the parish’s better January’s on record.
Next month, Dufrene said the parish will begin collecting the 0.3 percent sales tax in Morgan City when sales tax receipts are turned in for the collections, which began Jan. 1 for road improvements.
Without audit collections, sales taxes totaled roughly $39.48 million in 2011, or 1.9 percent higher than the approximately $37.75 million that were collected in 2010.
Fourth quarter earnings without audit collections were about $9.37 million, or 9.7 percent less than the approximately $10.37 million hauled in during 2010.
The top individual industries that contributed to tax collections were industrial (18 percent), oil and gas (13 percent) and department stores (10 percent).
The largest sector was in an area titled “other,” which contributed 27 percent. This category includes a variety of items, such as campgrounds, professional services, mail orders, beauty shops and office supplies.
Individually, oil and gas collections, automobiles and grocery stores all were up from their 2010 totals, while industrial, department stores, building materials and hotels all dipped from their 2010 totals.
Specifically, Dufrene said the drop in hotels was because there were not as many people staying here as there would have been during the BP oil spill or earlier this year during the high water the area experienced.
When factoring in all taxes collected for 2011, distributions totaled about $40.79 million, up from 2010 collections of about $39.22 million
As for individual cities, Morgan City’s collections have increased by 13 percent from 2010, or by approximately $4.89 million in 2010 to about $5.51 million in 2011. Dufrene attributed the increase to occupation license tax collections, which the parish Sales and Use Tax Office began collecting for the city in 2011.
Also during 2011, the City of Franklin saw a 2 percent dip in tax collections from $3.1 million in 2010 to $3.04 million in 2011. Dufrene said that dip was due to loss in population.
As for individual groups, the Cajun Coast Visitors and Convention Bureau’s collections dropped 18 percent from $634,551 in 2010 to $519,691 due to less hotels being filled like they were earlier this year because of the flood or last year during the BP oil spill.
In other news during Monday’s meeting, the council:
—Learned that the Council of Governments has a balance of $4,142 as of Dec. 31.
—Unanimously elected officers for the 2011 year, which will be those in the City of Patterson. Officers include president, Mayor Rodney Grogan; secretary, Sandra Turner; and treasurer, John Rentrop. The Town of Berwick has served as the Council of Governor’s officers for the past year.
—Unanimously approved resolutions transferring the bank account for the Council of Governments to the City of Patterson as well as honoring the public service of former state Sen. Butch Gautreaux. Gautreaux could not run again this past election cycle because he was term-limited.
—Learned from St. Mary Parish Chief Administrative Officer Henry “Bo” LaGrange that the contractor began tearing out the southbound lane of Berwick South Road on Monday, and traffic has been diverted to the northbound lane. All northbound traffic is detouring through Berwick to U.S. 90. Despite the lapse of work in December, LaGrange said he thought the project was getting back on schedule. LaGrange also reported that the parish is constructing its second landfill cell at the Harold J. “Babe” Landry landfill. When completed it will be a 30-plus acre, lined cell, and the parish will have, combined, more than 60 acres cell and 30-plus acres of life on the landfill remaining.
—LaGrange also reported that the third phase of the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard project came in under budget and should be bid out within 30 to 45 days.