Like a patient that’s lost too much blood — Payson’s economy seems to swoon every time it staggers to its feet.
So the local economy fell flat on its face in April, as sales tax collections fell 29 percent from last April — an anemic $350,000 for the month.
The disappointing figures came after sales had climbed to $416,000 in March, nearly back to last year’s levels.
The closely watched monthly sales tax tally suggests that the recovery continues to sputter in Rim Country despite the flat unemployment rate and a rise in consumer spending, sales and real estate nationally.
Payson’s sales tax chart has looked like the readings on some hospitalized heart patient ever since last October, with big drops, a painful rise toward last year’s tally and then a renewed collapse.
The April numbers represented the biggest single-month percentage drop from the year previous in the whole cycle.
Oddly enough, Payson seemed to fare worse in April than most of the rest of the state. The state collects a portion of the sales tax and then distributes it to the cities based on population. This state-shared sales tax declined just 1 percent — which presumably reflects the trend for sales statewide.
Fortunately, Payson’s overall decline in sales tax revenue has been much smaller than April’s swoon — about 13 percent cumulative since last July.
Unfortunately, the sales tax decline has been mirrored by almost every other town revenue source. Overall, Payson’s revenues have declined by about 21 percent so far this year, which includes April’s thrashing.
In April, total revenues stood at $790,000, 31 percent less than expected in the budget adopted last July.
Only an ongoing decline in town spending and a loan from the water department has so far prevented that collapse in revenues from producing financial disaster.
As of the end of April, the town’s town’s general fund was $400,000 in the hole, which will mean using at least part of a water department loan set aside back in December.
So far, the town has spent $2.4 million less out of its general fund budget than it planned back in July when the council adopted a budget that assumed the economy would gradually mend in the course of the year. That savings includes $314,000 in April alone, which in part reflects the impact of an ongoing furlough that amounts to a 12- to 16-percent pay cut for all employees.
The town general fund spending as of the end of April stood at $10.2 million, 13 percent less than originally budgeted. The general fund does not include the water department and does not include major grants and spending for improvement districts.
Parks and Recreation took the biggest hit when it comes to the spending decline. The parks had spent $270,000 as of April — about 29 percent under budget.
The police department’s $3.3-million year-to-date in spending is 14 percent below the original budget. The department currently has three unfilled positions and has eliminated most training and overtime and is generally operating with one less officer per shift than last year.
The fire department’s $2.1 million in year-to-date spending is about 11 percent below budget. The fire department has also left positions unfilled and sharply limited overtime, which means one less firefighter per truck on most shifts.
The community development department has spent $592,000 so far this year, about 16 percent less than it originally budgeted. However, the department has also had much less to do than in years past. The pre-recession average of 250 housing permits annually has dropped to about 30 in the past year.
The only department in the town spending ahead of projection was the town manager’s office — by about $2,000. That reflects some expenses moved into the town manager’s budget from other departments and the council’s decision to exempt Town Manager Debra Galbraith from the furlough, so she could step in for furloughed department heads on weekends and after hours as needed.