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 year’s March tally is more than a 6-percent increase. Last month’s return was down slightly from February 2012’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 2011’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 2012’s total eclipses the $121,523.37 March 2011 return by more than $14,000 — 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 year’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.
“I think the continuous increase of tax collections in Starkville point to the what seems to be the thriving economy we’re currently experiencing. The number of perspective business inquiries we receive at the partnership have drastically increased since this time last year,” Gregory said. “We’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 I’ve been so pleased to see an increase month after month.”
Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas said the numbers continue a positive trend of growth, but he’s interested to see how tax figures turn out this summer given the drop in Mississippi State University student population.
“Getting in the summer period, those returns are something we like to keep an eye on because that’s when we typically see the greatest dip in collections, but in the past few years we’ve bucked that trend,” Dumas said. “In the last couple of years we’ve stayed pretty consistent, which is a good sign that we’re stable even during times when student activity and other activities are not as high.”
Gregory said she hopes steady summers are the new trend.
“We’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 we’ll sustain our restaurants and other businesses,” Gregory said.