Payson Sales Still Lag Behind State In Sales Tax Receipts

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Payson had a disappointing November when it came to local sales tax receipts, lagging behind both last year’s tally and the statewide figures.

Local sales tax receipts from June through November declined $5,400 from last year’s bleak performance — although that amounted to a virtual break-even performance. Local

sales tax collections for the period totaled $2 million.

By contrast, statewide sales tax totals rose by about 4 percent. The state collects a share of the sales tax statewide, then returns it to cities based on population.

The figures provide fresh evidence that Maricopa County has recovered more quickly than rural areas of the state.

Overall, Payson’s revenues have lagged about $1.3 million behind the projection made

back in June, although a lot of that shortfall represents various state and federal grants the town hoped for but didn’t receive.

Most other major sources of revenue have fallen behind both projections and last year’s totals.

For instance, the town received only $411,000 in state gas taxes, $72,000 less than in the same period last year. That’s mostly because the state Legislature diverted gas tax money towns used to get to build and maintain roads to other uses — especially paying for the Department of Public Safety.

The town also received $538,000 in income tax money collected by the state and passed along to cities based on population, an $87,000 decline from the year before. That decline actually represents the great plunge in state income tax receipts two years before as the recession took hold.

Fortunately, town spending also remains well behind projections.

For instance, the town has spent $4.5 million from the general fund so far. That means that with 42 percent of the fiscal year gone, the town has spent only 32 percent of its budget.

The report did offer a few bright spots when it came to the performance of certain sales tax categories.

For instance, the construction sector that once anchored Rim Country’s economy has shown a few, recent signs of life. The town has so far collected $3,000 in plan review fees — a 13 percent increase over the same period last year. Actual building permit fees increased a more modest 4 percent — but that’s still an improvement over the complete lack of any building permits for the past two years.

The sales tax figures by category actually tally sales in October instead of November, which reported only overall sales.

But in October, sales tax revenue related to construction rose 28 percent to $37,000. That’s about the same as in 2009, the first year of the recession — and about a third of the $91,000 reported in the last year of the boom in 2008-09.

Other sectors remain little changed from the same period last year.

Receipts from hotels actually dropped 6 percent in October from the same period last year. Of course, last year was actually a very good year for hotels in town, with the $33,000 total far ahead of 2009-10’s $21,000 and even the pre-recession total of $26,000.

Most other categories slumped this year compared to last, including wholesale trade, real estate and entertainment.

The town continues to keep a tight grip on the budget, with virtually every department spending less than it anticipated so far this year.

The water department remains the biggest spender in town, but water bills cover that cost.

The water department has so far spent $1.4 million. But that’s still just 29 percent of its adopted budget, although we’re already 42 percent through the year.

The police department has the next biggest budget at $4.7 million annually. But the department will likely spend much less than it budgeted this year. For instance, in November the police department had a budget of almost $400,000, but spent only $283,000 — mostly because it has several unfilled positions.

The fire department comes next, with a $3.3 million annual budget. Spending in that department is also running behind projections. In November the department was supposed to spend $271,000, but actually spent only $200,000.

Central services accounts for the next biggest category, which pays for most of the employee benefits. Even here, spending remains below budget.

Overall, instead of spending the budgeted $6 million to this point in the fiscal year, the departments in the general fund have spent only $4.5 million.

Nonetheless, because of the big shortfalls in projected revenue the town has already taken nearly $300,000 out of its slender reserve fund to keep the bills paid. That shrank the projected year-end reserve fund to about $600,000 out of a $14 million general fund budget.

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