January weather hurts NWA March sales tax revenue reports

by The City Wire staff (info@thecitywire.com) 4 views 

Businesses across Benton and Washington counties collected 9.8% less in sales tax in January across the region’s four largest cities. Total sales tax revenue slid to $3.938 million in March, compared to $4.356 million reported by the same four cities in March 2013.

There is a two-month lag in the reporting from the time the sales are made and when the cities report the associated revenue. Fayetteville, Springdale, Bentonville and Rogers each collect a 2% local sales tax. One percent of that goes to repaying debt and 1% goes into the cities’ general funds. This report tracks the general fund revenue.

MARCH REVENUE (compared to year-ago)
Springdale: $813,815, up 4%
Rogers: $1.037 million, down 3%
Fayetteville: $1.325 million, down 7%
Bentonville: $762,246, down 29%

City administrators and mayors attribute the lower collections to snowy weather that kept more people at home or kept businesses closed for several days in January. Retailers from Wal-Mart to Macy’s said their sales suffered in January from cold, snowy weather that blanketed much of the country — Arkansas included.

Bentonville officials said the March report was a tough year-over-year comparison but trends should be good as long as revenue meets the $750,000 budgeted on a monthly basis. Springdale does not have the retail presence of Fayetteville or Rogers and tends to report more stable numbers on average.

The smaller towns of Lowell and Siloam Springs also reported double-digit declines in sales tax revenue this month. Siloam Springs collected $261,761, down 21% from $274,959 reported a year ago. Lowell city officials reported March revenue of $218,989, down 35% from the same month in 2013.

Consumer sentiment is also closely tied to sales revenue. Consumer sentiment dipped in January, as recent economic improvements did not translate to rosy consumer outlook. The final reading on the University of Michigan's overall index of consumer sentiment slipped to 81.2 in January, down from the 82.5 posted in December. Analysts were looking for a reading of 81.0 in the month. Lower income households (75,000 or less) were largely responsible for the negative outlook, according to the release.

Year-to-date collections among the region’s largest cities are trailing revenue reported in 2013, except Rogers — up just slightly.

2014: $3.691 million
2013: $3.629 million

2014: $2.501 million
2013: $2.54 million

2014: $4.502 million
2013: $4.632 million

2014: $2.335 million
2013: $2.791 million