Craighead County and its seat, Jonesboro, set new records in sales tax collections in 2017. Craighead County collected $19.989 million in sales and use tax, a 3.1% ($616,288) increase from 2016, according to the Craighead County Treasurer’s Department. Jonesboro collected $17.830 million in sales and use taxes, a 2.91% increase ($504,075) from the previous year.
The county and city also set collections records in 2016. During the last five years Jonesboro’s collections have risen by 16%, and have steadily grown each year. Craighead County had an almost identical growth pattern. Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin told Talk Business & Politics he’s pleased with the continued growth, but noted a decline in collections towards the end of the year.
“The trend before last year was increasing year-over-year growth. We still grew by a half-million dollars last year, but our growth began to diminish. In fact it was less than the past three years. Fortunately we budgeted less, and I appreciate our finance department for seeing the decline in growth.”
Jonesboro ended the year with a 2.31% ($32,915) increase to $1.46 million in December. The best sales collection month for the city was in February with $1.782 million, but it was one of the few months collections were down (1.35%) as compared to the same month in 2016. The city’s best month by percentage was March when sales tax receipts grew by 7.71% ($95,354).
Craighead County had the same top month with $1.999 million, but it was a slight increase from February 2016. In March the county collected its least amount of tax, $1.493 million.
In 2016, the city collected a record $17.326 million in sales tax receipts, a 4.43% increase from 2015. Since 2012, the city’s sales tax revenue has grown by 15.3%.
Craighead County collected $19.372 million in county sales tax last year, a 5.2% increase from 2015. The total is also a high mark in the county. Since 2010, the county’s sales tax receipts have grown from $15.599 million, a 24% spike.
Civic leaders, economists, and others have competing theories as to why Northeast Arkansas has experienced consistent economic growth during the last four decades. The region’s diverse jobs base – agriculture, food processing, health and medical, Arkansas State University, professional services – have had an insulating effect, but economic gains are also tied to population growth.
Since the early 1970s, Jonesboro has grown by about 3% each year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As of 2016 the city has about 76,000 residents. Jonesboro was the fifth largest city in Arkansas based on population in the 2010 census. The city is the second largest in terms of geographic size, only trailing Little Rock.
Unemployment numbers in the city steadily declined in 2017, and hit a near record low in October. The city’s rate has dropped from 3.3% at the beginning of the year to 2.6% in October. Since January, the civilian labor force has grown by 5.3% through the year to 37,918 workers. The number of unemployed workers dropped 17.5% to 986 during the same period.