Sales taxes win battle against coronavirus

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By Carolyn Roy, carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

COVID-19 did not appear to have a negative effect on sales tax collections in April but Natchitoches Tax Commission Administrator Jerry McWherter says the third and fourth quarters of this year will tell the whole story. He says that collections were good in 2019 and carried over to January and February of this year acting as a buffer for March and April. Collections did not dip in April as some expected because of Federal stimulus checks and enhanced unemployment benefits.

But while grocery stores prospered in April, restaurants and hotels took huge hits. For the periods of January thorough April of this year compared to 2019, grocery sales were up $1.6 million, restaurants were down $1.2 million and hotels were down $334,899. Market sales were up approximately $100,000 and retail sails were up $27,631. Total taxable sales were down $252,000 based on samplings of business types in each category. “It’s not as bad as we thought. Could we see a drop in the future? We won’t really know until the first of the year,” McWherter says.

A large part of the restaurant income won’t be replaced with the closure of Rib Fins, Mariner’s, The Landing, Greek Café, Venezia’s Garden and the fire at Mayeaux’s. Affecting the total collections are the closures of Fred’s, Home Hardware, Stage, Alligator Farm and fires at Hello Dolly and Dickens and Co. Another important factor will be how many students return to campus at Northwestern State for the fall semester.

City sales tax collections in April were $832,009, or 8.5 percent higher than a year ago for the same period. Year-to-date, the collections are 6 percent higher than in 2019. For the first three months of this year, the total City collections are $4.4 million. The school board has collected $6.9 million year-to-date or 332,541 more than in 2019. The April collections totaled $1.2 million, 4 percent more than in March.

The salary enhancement tax for school board employees was down approximately $80,000 from March. Parish Government sales tax collections year-to-date in April totaled just over $1 million and are 5 percent lower than in 2019. April collections were 6 percent lower than in March. Parish Government received $178,341 in April compared to $189,105 for the same month in 2019.