Northwest Arkansas sales tax revenue up a record 13% in February report

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 267 views 

Sales tax revenue reflecting December sales in region’s four largest cities was one for the record books, rising 13.15% from the same month last year. Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers and Springdale cumulatively reported $6.06 million in sales tax revenue in the report, the first $6 million month in the region’s history.

The February revenue reflects sales made in December. Each of the cities collect a 2% tax on goods and services rendered. Half of that goes toward debt retirement and the remaining 1% in funneled into the city’s annual budget. This report reflects the latter.

Bentonville led in growth producing a whopping 46.72% increase in revenue from the same month last year. At $1.234 million, Bentonville Mayor Bob McCaslin, said it’s too early to know if there will be any rebates against that number, but he expects the city’s normal to be around $1 million going forward.

Looking just at February’s history over the past the past five years, the $1.234 million was a record month for Bentonville which only topped the $1 million mark one other time in February 2011 at $1.009 million.

McCaslin said city growth continues thanks in part to the quality of life that can be gleaned by exposure to the arts, nature and family venues like the Amazeum and the Razorback Greenway. The Scott Family Amazeum reported this week more than 202,500 visitors since it opened July 15, 2015. The numbers exceed the expectations of 180,000 in its first full year of operations.

“To see more than 200,000 guests little more than halfway through the year is an overwhelming success,” said Bob Arvin, president of the Amazeum board of directors. “The impact we are able to have is similar to that of museums in cities three times our size. Our donor, staff and volunteers have created an experience that foster creativity and learning and we all look forward to an exciting future in this community.”

McCaslin said local sales tax revenue has been on an upward trend the past few years which he expects to continue in 2016. He’s pleased with the growth saying there is no shortage of demand for more funds given the city’s infrastructure investments.

“I am convinced that Bentonville’s best days are still to come,” he said.

In Springdale the coffers continue to swell with higher sales tax revenue for 24 consecutive months. Springdale reported $1.131 million in tax revenue for February, up 9.75% over the $1.031 million reported in February 2014. It was only the 10th consecutive $1 million month of the city.

“I am very encouraged by the growth we are experiencing, especially when you realize more is coming. We know this year Sam’s Club will open and we have the Arkansas Children’s Hospital and all the opportunities around that venue still to ahead of us. The revitalization of our downtown is also just beginning,” Mayor Doug Sprouse said in a phone interview.

He also is pleased to see “quality of life” investments made by the city and private entities having significant returns. The parks, trails and road infrastructure have translated into people spending more time and money in Springdale.

“Add in that we are the state’s leading jobs creator and enjoy the lowest unemployment rate in the state and you can see why we are so bullish on 2016 and beyond,” Sprouse said.

Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan echoed that sentiment. Fayetteville enjoyed an 8.08% increase in its February sales tax revenue from a year ago. The city reported $2.023 million in tax revenue in the February report, the first time over $2 million.

Jordan said earlier this month that perhaps the biggest news from all of 2015 was the city’s 7.3% annual sales tax gains last year — the biggest growth in a decade since the Pinnacle Promenade Mall was completed. His enthusiasm for 2016 is based on the fact that more than two businesses per day are coming to the Fayetteville, based on the permits the city continues to issue.

For the first two months of 2016, the city has seen its tax revenue rise to $3.696 million, up 7.69% from $3.432 million reported in the same period last year. Like the other mayors, Jordan said the added revenue will be put to good use as the city plans to spend more than $1 million restoring two historic bridges, make improvements to Gulley Park and complete the Rupple Road widening project to open up additional north/south access on the west side of the city.

Rogers reported February sales tax revenue of $1.671 million, up 3.69% from the same month last year. That was the best February on record for the city. The next best results were the $1.611 million reported one year ago. Year-to-date the city’s sales tax revenue is trending 5.26% above last year.

That said, Rogers remains one of the hottest destinations for new restaurants and retail venues – both of which bring in additional sales tax. Foghorns, Newk’s Eatery, Raising Cane’s Chicken and Captain D’s Seafood, all have planned expansions into Rogers in the coming months. Steinmart and Harbor Freight Tools are also looking at Rogers for new stores this year and the 2016 has just gotten started.

SALES TAX (January through February reports; reflecting November and December sales)
2016: $1.956 million
2015: $1.686 million

2016: $3.696 million
2015: $3.432 million

2016: $3.022 million
2015: $2.871 million

2016: $2.179 million
2015: $2.001 million