Officials in Craighead County and its seat, Jonesboro, spent a lot of 2018 worrying the area’s tremendous economic growth would slow and sales tax receipts might go into decline. Those fears were not realized as both the county and city set all-time collections records.
Jonesboro collected $18.184 million in city sales and use taxes, a 1.98% increase from 2017, according to figures released from the city. In the month of December, the city collected $1.528 million, a 4.7% ($68,140) increase as compared to the previous year. The city had positive sales tax growth during 10 months of the year. The only two months where sales dropped were March (1.79% decline) and in April (9.78% decline). Sales tax receipts failed to reach the budgeted amount, but only slightly. The city created a budget based on $18.2 million in collections, meaning there was a $15,832 shortfall.
Mayor Harold Perrin previously told Talk Business & Politics he was afraid that online sales might cause the city’s sales tax figures to lag. Sales tax growth slowed considerably when compared to recent years.
“I’m sure internet sales is a major player. We haven’t lost population. We haven’t lost eating places. I’ve got our staff drilling down to find out why. We’re going to get the list to learn what categories are hurting, but my hunch is internet sales has a major role,” Perrin said.
Craighead County set an all-time collections record with $20.211 million, a little more than a 1% ($220,000) increase from 2017. There was a slight increase ($55,000) to $1.687 million in December as compared to the same month in 2017.
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 had 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, trailing only Little Rock.
Sales tax collection numbers are released 60 days late, meaning these numbers are from October transactions.
The city and county set records in sales tax collections in 2017. Craighead County collected $19.989 million in sales tax, a 3.1% ($616,288) increase from 2016. Jonesboro collected $17.83 million in sales taxes, a 2.91% increase ($504,075) from the previous year.
The county and city also set collection records in 2016. During the last five years, Jonesboro’s collections have risen by 16% and have steadily grown each year.