Business Struggling To Recover

No sign the recession has eased in latest sales tax figures

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Some economists have already declared the recession over, but you can’t prove that by Payson’s latest sales tax figures.

Payson, as of Aug. 31, had collected $523,561 in local sales taxes since the start of the fiscal year in June, a drop from last year of $71,521.

The 14-percent decline from last year, when the economy was still sliding deeper into the recession, came despite the town’s strenuous efforts this summer to lure tourists with special events, advertising and Web site promotions.

“I’ve been trying to brace people for this,” said Payson Mayor Kenny Evans.

“We’re not done here (with the recession). The Great Depression took 11 years and a major war to get out of — so we’re still struggling, not just in Payson, but in the world.”

The town’s monthly financial report included assorted portents and clues, most of which indicated that almost all the town’s revenue sources remain significantly below last year — but not too far behind the relatively pessimistic forecasts built into this year’s stripped down budget.

Town officials had trumpeted a rise in attendance at the August Rodeo, but the rodeo this year provided little apparent boost for sales tax receipts for the month — which declined sharply from last summer.

The town collected less money than last year, and less money than projected in almost every category, sometimes significantly less The declines for June through August include revenues for sales and income taxes, licenses and permits, transfers from other government entities and fines.

Only revenue from charges for services appeared to be close to the budgeted amounts, in large measure because the budget assumes little revenue this year from issuing building permits and reviewing plans.

Among the bleak figures:

• Vehicle license revenue dropped 13 percent to $83,000.

• Building permit revenue dropped 76 percent to $4,700.

• Plan review fee revenue dropped 65 percent to $2,500.

• HURF gas tax money dropped 8 percent to $134,000.

Broken out by type of sale, the declines hit most businesses in town — although the individual categories covered June and July, but not August.

However, that generalization had one interesting exception — real estate, which led the downturn and has been among the most hard-hit sectors for the past year.

Sales taxes from real estate, rental and leasing actually rose from $29,000 last year to $34,000 this year — a 17-percent increase.

However, every other category fell, including:

• Retail trade: Down 16 percent to $329,000

• Construction: Down 47 percent to $45,000.

• Restaurants: Down 6 percent to $59,000

• Hotels: Down 19 percent to $21,000.

Fortunately, the decline in revenues is shadowed by trends that have kept most of the town’s departments under budget so far in the fiscal year.

Overall, spending remains about 2 percent behind the adopted budget figures.

The departments the most under budget so far include parks and recreation, public works, information technology, human resources and the magistrate court. The departments that have so far come in a little over budget include central services, financial services, the town council and the clerk’s office. Some of those figures stem from big, one-time expenses early in the year.

The police department remains the most expensive town operation, with a budget of $4.6 million, so far almost exactly on budget.

The fire department has the next biggest budget — $2.9 million — which remains on track.

Third biggest departmental budget is central services, at $1.3 million.

The next largest budget is the $842,000 community development payroll, which remains right on projections.

The next three largest budgets are $615,000 for public works, including park maintenance; $562,000 for information technology; and $504,000 for the town attorney.

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