The city of Walnut Ridge is seeing a significant jump in city sales and use collections in 2018. Through October, the city has collected $87,055 in sales tax receipts, a 12% increase as compared to the same time frame in 2017. Mayor Charles Snapp told Talk Business & Politics he’s pleased with the collections’ pace and city officials think it will accelerate into 2019.
The sales tax growth is due to an increase in businesses in the city during the last couple of years, the mayor said. Tractor Supply, Taco Bell, Main Street Pizza, Citizens Vault and others have opened shops in the city. Casey General Store recently opened a location as did Dollar Tree. These businesses have helped consumers do one thing – shop at home, Snapp added.
“It’s a larger variety of shopping opportunities … if our residents can buy what they need here then they don’t have to go to Jonesboro or Pocahontas or another town,” he said. “We’re keeping our people here.”
Walnut Ridge is the county seat for Lawrence County and it provides roughly half of the county’s sales tax receipts. Lawrence County tallied $418,311 in sales tax receipts through October, a 3% ($14,000) increase as compared to the same time frame in 2017. Without the strong sales numbers in Walnut Ridge, the county might have had a decline in receipts, Snapp added.
“Walnut Ridge is a big part of the overall economic health of Lawrence County,” he said.
The city receipts don’t include the voter approved sales tax hikes that will be used to fund sewer and other projects in Walnut Ridge. A three-eighths of a cent tax will go directly toward the construction of a new water treatment facility. The tax will sunset in 42 years. The other five-eighths of a cent increase will be used for sewer and water system maintenance in compliance with state regulations, asphalt upgrades, sanitation and mosquito control.
Those collections began Oct. 1 and the first batch will be released in December, Snapp said.
The sales tax projections are about 3.5% ahead of what city officials budgeted for this year, and the 2019 budget will be significantly higher based on these rising numbers, Snapp said. Walnut Ridge had a $2.711 million budget this year, and it’s expected to jump to $3.3 million in 2019, Snapp added.
Walnut Ridge’s signature festival, Beatles at the Ridge, will likely fuel sales tax figures in the coming months. The festival, held in mid-September, had record or near record turnout, Snapp said. Up to 15,000 people attended the event. There’s no gate at the event so an exact number is difficult to calculate, but after talking with several vendors and others businesses, there was a significant jump in activity as compared to previous years, he said.
“Our sales have gone up and up,” Snapp said. “We plan for that to continue.”