City’s income down 8.7 percent in 2 months

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sales and gaming tax revenue in Vicksburg is down by nearly 9 percent two months into the 2009-10 fiscal year, compared to the same period last year. Nonetheless, Mayor Paul Winfield said this morning he does not anticipate having to cut the city’s $31 million operating budget.

“I don’t think there’s any need to talk about any massive layoffs or cuts in our operations at this point,” Winfield said. “We will make adjustments if we have to, but we’re not there yet.”

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Sales tax revenues were down 13.5 percent in October and November, while taxes collected via the city’s five casinos were off by 3 percent in those months. Collectively, the revenue streams netted about $2.1 million, compared to $2.3 million to date last year — an 8.7 percent drop.

Sales and gaming tax collections account for nearly half of the city’s annual budget. Most of the remainder comes from property taxes, based on assessed valuations, which have risen.

The shortfalls were anticipated, somewhat. The spending plan adopted by the mayor and aldermen for the 12 months that started Oct. 1 is $500,000 smaller than the previous year.

“At this point, sales taxes are definitely concerning me more than the gaming tax,” said City Accountant Doug Whittington.

The city receives an 18.5 percent cut of all sales taxes collected by businesses inside the city limits. Sales tax collections in Vicksburg held steady during an otherwise economically tough fiscal year 2008-09, which ended Sept. 30 — down only a slight 1.5 percent, or $121,407, from the year before. 

Local sales tax income trails sales by two months, Whittington noted, meaning the taxes the city collected in November reflected the purchases made in September. Whittington said he’s optimistic collections over the next two months — which will reflect holiday purchases made in November and December — will not be as grim.

“I do anticipate January and February sales tax revenues to be better. I don’t necessarily expect them to be equal to or greater than last year’s numbers, but I certainly don’t expect them to be down 13 or 14 or 15 percent like we’ve seen the past few months,” said Whittington. “After that, we’re just going to have to wait and see.”

If current trends continue through the rest of the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010, the city would end up with approximately $6 million in gaming tax revenue and $6.5 million in sales taxes — far below budget projections of $6.77 million and $7.28 million. Winfield said he’s optimistic the projections will hold.

“During our past budgeting cycle we predicted declines and we were able to modify our budget to somewhat mirror what we anticipated our losses would be, and I feel positive about our forecasts,” he said. “If you look at surrounding areas you’ll find that our sales (taxes) are still up compared to how many other communities are doing, and if you look at our gaming market compared to Louisiana we’re doing much better.”

Louisiana’s 18 state-licensed casinos on Tuesday reported a 16.7 percent drop in gambling revenue in November compared to the previous year. The Mississippi Gaming Commission has not yet released November figures for the state’s 30 state-licensed casinos. The double-digit drop reflected similar drops throughout the past year in casino states such as Nevada, New Jersey and Illinois.

Meanwhile, Gov. Haley Barbour and legislators have been mulling over options for cutting the 2011 budget, which begins July 1, in light of reduced tax and other revenues. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee on Tuesday recommended the elimination of 3,600 state jobs, and continuing a 10 percent cut from state agencies already operating on shoestring budgets.

Barbour has also had to trim the current fiscal year, $6 billion budget by $226.3 million, and legislators are expected to address a $160 million revenue shortfall that still remains after the legislative session begins in January. Revenues in Mississippi have been below projected estimates for 15 consecutive months.

Vicksburg’s five casinos pay a 3.2 percent revenue tax to the State of Mississippi that is divided locally, with the city getting the lion’s share — 65 percent — while Warren County gets 25 percent and the school district 10 percent. A second revenue tax is an 0.8 percent share of the state’s 8.8 percent revenue tax. It is split based on population proportions between Vicksburg and Warren County. Each casino is also required to pay $150 for each gaming device annually to the city. Gaming tax revenues in Vicksburg were off by 3.8 percent for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, compared to the previous year. 

The city lowered its projected gaming tax revenue estimate this year to $6.77 million, from $6.85 million. Actual collections exceeded expectations last year by about $75,000. Projected sales tax revenue estimates were lowered to $7.28 million from $7.4 million, and total collections last year exceeded projections by about $117,000.


Contact Steve Sanoski at

At a glance

Vicksburg gaming and sales tax receipts in October and November:

                          2008-09            2009-10        Change

Gaming tax    $1,035,355.10     $1,004,006     – 3%

Sales tax             $1,268,727     $1,097,321     – 13.5%

Combined      $2,304,082.10     $2,101,327     – 8.7%