By NATHAN GREGORY
Starkville recorded its highest March sales tax return since 2008, an accomplishment local officials say is indicative of a steady city economy.
Tax figures released by the city show Starkville received $476,275.46 for the month, eclipsing the March 2011 total of $449,079.94. The $27,195.52 gain over last yearâ€™s March tally is more than a 6-percent increase. Last monthâ€™s return was down slightly from February 2012â€™s $479,482.34 return.
The city has collected $1.38 million in returns through the first three months of 2012, whereas it accumulated $1.28 through the first three months of 2011.
The current monthly average through March is $458,634.93 per month. That outpaces 2011â€™s monthly average of $454,264.50 by more than $4,000.
Despite a slight decrease in overall returns from February, the city did collect more revenue from the 2 percent food and beverage tax collections than in the previous month. The city collected $135,526.34 from that tax in March in comparison to the $132,705.98 February total. March 2012 food and beverage tax returns are also the highest since the city collected $143,510.43 during that month in 2008. March 2012â€™s total eclipses the $121,523.37 March 2011 return by more than $14,000 â€” an 11.5 percent increase. The city has seen only one month of 2 percent food and beverage tax returns total less than $100,000 since 2010. The city is up nearly $5,000 for the first three calendar months this year over 2011. This year it has collected a total of $368,364.32 through March over last yearâ€™s $363402.87 three-month total.
Jennifer Gregory, Greater Starkville Development Partnership vice president for tourism and chief operating officer, said both the sales tax and 2 percent beverage tax trends show continued economic growth, particularly in the rising amount of interest in starting businesses in Starkville.
â€śI think the continuous increase of tax collections in Starkville point to the what seems to be the thriving economy weâ€™re currently experiencing. The number of perspective business inquiries we receive at the partnership have drastically increased since this time last year,â€ť Gregory said. â€śWeâ€™re starting to see a real surge in what we hope to be an increase of business development and business retention in Starkville. I think that in March you have to take in consideration spring break and large amounts of time when people leave town, but annually Iâ€™ve been so pleased to see an increase month after month.â€ť
Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas said the numbers continue a positive trend of growth, but heâ€™s interested to see how tax figures turn out this summer given the drop in Mississippi State University student population.
â€śGetting in the summer period, those returns are something we like to keep an eye on because thatâ€™s when we typically see the greatest dip in collections, but in the past few years weâ€™ve bucked that trend,â€ť Dumas said. â€śIn the last couple of years weâ€™ve stayed pretty consistent, which is a good sign that weâ€™re stable even during times when student activity and other activities are not as high.â€ť
Gregory said she hopes steady summers are the new trend.
â€śWeâ€™re entering the summer season, which is typically a little slower than the rest of the year, but I look forward to the MSU summer camps and orientation to help hotel tax numbers stay steady and hopefully weâ€™ll sustain our restaurants and other businesses,â€ť Gregory said.