Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sales tax slumps in Early County

Locally, it isn’t hard to see the benefits of sales tax collections. The new high school gym, the Standifer Field renovation, fencing and other safety measures at the schools were all funded through local option sales tax collections.

The courthouse renovation, recreation complex and the paving of Sandy Bottom Road also came as a result of local option sales tax.

But, as economic conditions continue to stagnate, so do sales tax collections on both the state and local level.

During the first 10 months of 2008, Early County collected $2.8 million in LOST and SPLOST revenue. The past 12 months, collections have reached $2.1 million. The school system has fared no better. Last year’s collections for the same time period were at $1.84 million; this year the total is $1.39 million.
The state’s sales and use tax collection is down 14.2 percent over last year which accounts for $505 million in state operating funds.


At the state level, declining sales tax revenues coupled with lower revenue collections across the board, have resulted in furloughs of state agency employees and cutbacks in operation dollars. Additional furlough days are expected in the second half of this budget year.

Locally, the school system has delayed beginning a roofing project at the high school and has scaled back some ESPLOST projects in the system.

Because the Early County Board of Commissioners were conservative in estimating this SPLOST cycle’s annual collections at $1.5 million, the county is on target with its SPLOST and LOST budgets.

County administrator Kathy Howard pointed out that although revenue was in line with expectations, the county was using caution in proceeding with projects and spending only on necessities.

The city of Blakely has lowered its projections of sales tax revenues by almost $300,000 in their 2010 budget proposal.

A report by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute in Atlanta suggests that the state will cut their operating budget again in January resulting in almost an eight percent or $1.6 billion decrease in funds for public services.

Local agencies such as the school system, welfare department, juvenile justice, library system and others who are supported with state funds are expecting to see continued budget cuts through furlough days and other cost saving measures.

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