Tax revenue numbers improving

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 17, 2010

NATCHEZ — Natchez may have seen the best of the worst in its most recent sales tax revenues.

January revenues dropped compared to the previous year, but the drop was the smallest in months.

The city collected $387,016 the first month of the new year, down from $390,258 in January 2009 — a .83 percent drop. Sales tax collections are reported two months after the fact.

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The City of Natchez experienced as much as a 12 percent decrease in monthly sales tax revenues last year. City Clerk Donnie Holloway attributes January’s slight decrease to tax refunds.

“What you’re seeing right now is tax money circulating,” Holloway said. “The income tax money is coming back from what I understand.”

With the exception of February 2009, when the city reported an 8.59 percent increase in sales tax revenues — sales tax revenues have fallen every month from January to December 2009.

Sales tax revenues fell $23,387, or 4.5 percent in December. The city collected $495,552 in December 2009, down from $518,939 in December 2008.

Sales tax revenues fell 47,307, or 10.35 percent, in November. The city collected $409,969 in November 2009, down from $457,276 in November 2008.

Holloway said total sales tax revenue for fiscal year 2010, which began Oct. 1, is $2,502,757. Holloway said he hopes Spring Pilgrimage will boost sales tax numbers in the coming months.

“We do see a jump in sales tax (during Pilgrimage),” Holloway said. “Just looking at previous years, the sales tax is up for the exception of 2008-2009.”

Holloway said the city collected $445,321 March 2009, about $85,000 less than what was collected in March 2008. In April 2009, the city collected $424,938, about $4,000 less than what was collected the previous year.

Sales tax forecasts for March and April 2010 are promising, according to area business owners.

Jonathan Wood, owner of the Old South Trading Post on Broadway Street, said business has spiked since Spring Pilgrimage tours began March 6.

“Our business is up for Pilgrimage and we are excited about the large number of visitors from Canada,” Wood said. “This is the largest number of Canadian visitors we have experienced in our six years.”

Wood said he has also noticed an increase in the number of tour buses coming through town.

“Our bus situation has been a really nice surprise we didn’t expect,” Wood said. “That has been a very good thing.”

Mary Emrick, owner of Turning Pages Books & More on Franklin Street, said there was a lull in foot traffic until this past weekend.

“It has definitely been a much better week this week than last week,” Emrick said. “I would have to say that’s been the result of our tourists.

“We had such a slow start to the new year, and March is much improved over January and February.”

Both Wood and Emrick agree that introducing visitors to gracious southern hospitality will not only boost sales tax dollars, but also encourage visitors to return to Natchez more often.

“Truly welcoming people with hospitality to Natchez is the long-term key because hospitality is one of the unique features of Natchez,” Wood said.

“We owe a debt to the women who opened their homes to start Pilgrimage, and we’re still standing on their legacy of hospitality.”