— By DAVID MAY
There are a number of key barometers that help measure how well a local economy is operating – or in the case of the past few years recovering.
For the past 12 months of retail sales tax collections from the State Comptroller’s Office, the City of Weatherford has shown steady improvement with a forecast of continued gains.
With a December disbursement to the city of $759,783, a 10 percent grain over its December 2011 check, Weatherford has received $9.35 million in retail sales taxes from the comptroller’s office in 2012, also a 10 percent increase over the previous 12-month period.
“The last couple of months have been the best collections ever for those months,” said city Finance Director Janina Jewel. “We are back to our 2008 levels.”
Of course the last quarter of 2008 began the nation’s financial crisis that saw governmental revenue collections in almost all categories take a financial hit.
The City of Weatherford levies a 1.5 percent tax on retail sales. December’s sales tax receipts are based on October’s local retail sales reported to the state in November.
Jewel noted the state’s sales tax disbursements do not reflect all sales tax collections, just those collected and reported by retail outlets. She said the city also collects sales taxes on transactions such as utility payments that are not reported to the state.
She said city has been forecasting conservative sales tax revenue increases and said she is pleased to see the numbers trending higher. The city will not know how holiday sales will translate into local sales tax dollars for another month or two.
In something of a mixed blessing, Jewel noted the city is keeping a larger portion of sales tax collections because businesses operating under certain economic development agreements have not met goals to receive proceeds from the fund.
“You want the businesses to do well but you also want the revenues,” she said.
Sales tax collections are the largest single revenue source for the city, but Jewel said the city has a good balance between sales and property tax revenues, as well as other revenue sources that help fund the city’s daily operations. She said sales tax revenues fund about 40 percent of the city’s general fund expenditures, while property tax revenues provide about 20 percent.
“I really like our balance here,” Jewel said. “It is such that if one is really off it is not such a big hit.”
Other Parker County towns that collect sales taxes saw some huge jumps in their December checks compared to December 2011. Springtown’s December check was nearly double, at 97 percent, while Sanctuary saw a 91 percent gain.
Annetta’s December check reflected an 80 percent increase while Willow Park, Annetta South, Reno and Millsap also saw increases above 20 percent.
Statewide, December sales tax disbursements totaled more than $552 million, a 15.5 percent increase over December 2011.
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said state sales tax revenue reported in November was $2.34 billion, up 13.1 percent compared to November 2011.
“Gains across major sectors boosted state sales tax revenue,” Combs said. “Collections were strong in sectors such as retail trade, manufacturing, oil and natural gas, construction and telecommunications.”