Sales tax revenues slip in region

Staff Writer

The region’s largest retail center saw increased sales in November but numbers two, three and four — Oxford, Columbus and Starkville — faltered slightly, according to the latest tax revenue figures.

But overall, taxes collected on November retail sales in northeast Mississippi were up in 53 of 94 towns compared to November 2016.

The numbers marked a modest gain of 1.4 percent overall as towns headed into the last month of the Christmas shopping season.

That small increase fueled concerns among city governments that online sales continue to sap tax revenue from local coffers.

In the Golden Triangle, Starkville got $559,309 as its share of revenues from November sales. That was down 1.3 percent from November 2016. Columbus received $781,279, down 1.4 percent from a year earlier. Oxford’s numbers were down 2.6 percent.

Tupelo, the region’s largest retail center, saw revenues increase 1.1 percent.

The largest increases among the major retail centers in the region were 7.3 percent in New Albany and 7.1 percent in Pontotoc, both growing towns along the Highway 78/Intestate 22 corridor between Tupelo and Memphis and Tupelo and Oxford.

Both towns also have seen growth sparked by votes in the last three years to legalize alcohol sales.

Among other top-10 retail centers in the region, Booneville and Corinth saw slight increases in revenues while Amory, Grenada, Louisville and Kosciusko saw declines.

West Point’s numbers were down compared to the previous year, but almost all the decline was due to the city’s repayment of a large overpayment made to the city by
the state for years. The city has more than a year remaining on the repayment that totals more than $19,000 a month.

Elsewhere in the Golden Triangle area, Sturgis in Oktibbeha County saw increased revenues, Macon and Shuqualak in Noxubee County say revenues declined, while Artesia and Caledonia in Lowndes County had higher revenues and Crawford’s declined.

The Mississippi Municipal League and its member cities across the state continue to encourage the Legislature to either find ways to tax internet sales or provide other ways to give cities revenue options to offset the losses in revenues from sales taxes at traditional retailers.

Sales tax revenues make up between 40 and 50 percent of most towns’ operating budgets.