The four largest cities in Northwest Arkansas reported tax revenue from March of $6.22 million, up 4.75% from the year-ago period. The May report reflects sales tax collected in March and consists of a 1% local sales tax each city collects to enhance their respective city budgets.
City officials said last month they expected weaker sales tax revenue from COVID-19 tas many venues were closed or merely open for curbside pickup since late March. As retail begins to open with a limited capacity city leaders expect sales to gradually improve in the next few months, but also expect one, maybe two more months of downward trajectory on the sales tax revenue.
Rogers saw the biggest decline in March sales tax revenue at $1.635 million, down 6.36% from the prior-year period. As the region’s largest retail center the downward trajectory was not a surprise. Through the May report, sales tax revenue in Rogers totaled $8.666 million, up 7.65% from $8.05 million in the same period of 2019.
Fayetteville, being the other large retail center in the region, reported flat sales tax revenue from March totaling $1.871 million, up 0.24% compared to a year ago. The city also saw a majority of retail businesses close in mid-March and some open for online sales only. Mayor Lioneld Jordan expects downward pressure will continue through the next two months from COVID-19 impact.
Sales tax revenue reported through May in Fayetteville totals $9.633 million, up 5.65% from the same period last year. The city forecast annual revenue growth of 7% before COVID-19 hit.
Springdale reported March revenue gains of 7.31% despite the COVID-19 impact which has unfolded for the past three months. Total revenue was $1.429 million, compared to $1.331 million a year ago. Mayor Doug Sprouse said the city does expect downward pressure on revenue reported for April and May as that is when many businesses were shut down and consumers also sheltered at home. Sprouse and other city officials have said their cities’ are in strong fiscal shape going into this health-led crisis.
Through the May report, Springdale had sales tax revenue of $6.737 million, up 8.13% from the $6.23 million reported a year ago.
Bentonville reported a 29.34% increase in revenue for March sales. The city’s total revenue was $1.285 million, the second-best May report in the city’s history. With Walmart, the city’s largest employer, asking employees to work from home several restaurants closed completely and many catered to Walmart employees during the lunch hour.
Insiders have said Walmart’s home office will likely to be empty through the summer as employees work from home until school resumes. Restaurants have begun to reopen with limited seating capacity and consumers are slowing returning, according to restaurant managers at Cracker Barrel and Rons’ Hamburgers. Each also said pickup orders are still the biggest part of their businesses since the COVID-19 crisis hit.
Crystal Bridges and The Momentary remain closed as does the Walmart Museum and Amazeum which each draws visitors to the city and contributes to Bentonville’s sales tax revenue. Bentonville’s sales tax revenue reported though May was $6.478 million, down 17%.