Sales tax collections drop in city

Published 11:59 am Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sales taxes collected for Vicksburg in January were down from a year earlier, but city officials who had expected the drop said collections still keep revenue on track to meet the current budget.

“I think everything is all right now,” City Accountant Doug Whittington said Wednesday after reporting that February collections were up because of device taxes paid by a casino.

Also, he said, the close of February saw strong collections of personal and commercial property taxes, the city’s largest source of revenue.

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January sales taxes brought the city $531,007, which brings the year’s totals to $2,379,489 — in line with reaching the $7,250,000 budget, Whittington said.

The city receives an 18.5 percent share of all sales taxes collected within the city limits.

January’s sales tax revenue collected was off 4.67 percent from January 2010, Whittington said, but collectively, revenues have been up the past four months compared to revenue collected during the same time a year before.

December 2010 showed strong numbers, at $716,079 — up 1.52 percent from December 2009 when $705,353 was collected.

November produced $563,786, down 3.67 percent from November 2009 when $585,293 was collected. October showed the most gain at $568,617 collected compared to $536,981 collected during the same month in 2009.

“To me, these numbers are optimistic,” said Mayor Paul Winfield, who returned Wednesday from a one-day business trip to Washington, D.C. “The numbers are very good when you look at the state of our economy.”

Winfield declined to elaborate on the details of his trip citing a competitive edge on business deals.

He said he met with business leaders and owners and politicians while in the country’s capital. Chief of staff Kenya Burks, who did not travel with the mayor, said no city money was used to fund the trip.

Gaming tax revenue got a major boost in February when a $239,550 once-a-year device tax was collected from Ameristar Casino, Whittington said.

Each casino is required to pay $150 for each gaming device annually on the anniversary of their opening date. Horizon Casino paid $59,400 in October. No other casinos have paid during the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

With the device tax collected, the city’s cut for February from the five local casinos totaled $725,720.65, compared to $454,822 collected in February 2010.

The fiscal total so far is $2,577,051.01, off 3.13 percent from the projected $6,688,000.

The city’s five casinos pay a 3.2 percent revenue tax to the State of Mississippi. The revenue is divided locally with the city getting 65 percent, Warren County getting 25 percent and the Vicksburg Warren School District, 10 percent. A second revenue tax is an 0.8 percent share of the state’s 8.8 percent revenue tax, which is split based on population proportions between Vicksburg and Warren County.

In the personal property tax account, the city has collected approximately $2.14 million of a budgeted $3.7 million, Whittington said.

He said $1.7 million in personal property taxes were paid in February.

So far, commercial property taxes have netted the city $2.5 million, nearing the budgeted $2.8 million.

“We’re going to be fine with that,” Whittington said.

The city’s operating budget is $31.5 million this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. A bulk of the budget is received from sales tax revenue, which accounts for about 23.1 percent, gaming tax revenue at 21.3 percent, property tax revenue at 22.6 percent and the rest from services and fees.