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Tax revenue down for county

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
Shoppers are apparently on a roller-coaster ride that shows no signs of ending.
Sales tax revenue flowing to the county and towns has been up and down ó but mostly down.
Sales tax collections in the first nine months of this fiscal year have ranged from 14 percent less than the same month the previous year to 32 percent lower.
County Finance Director Leslie Heidrick said this week there is no way to predict what’s going to happen from month to month.
The county had held out hope until earlier this month that employees wouldn’t have to take a third unpaid furlough day to help offset lost revenue.
Sales tax receipts for March ó the most recent figures available ó totaled $1.4 million. That’s down more than $600,000 from last March, or a whopping 32 percent.
The 10-week delay in getting monthly sales tax data from the state also slows projections. The county received the March data on June 15.
Heidrick pointed out that it’s impossible to do an accurate comparison of sales tax receipts with those from last year. The state is now keeping a portion of the sales tax to offset the cost of taking over the county’s share of Medicaid.
The county previously had to pay 5 percent of the cost of Medicaid, which totaled $8 million in 2008. It’s now projected to be $11 million in the next fiscal year.
Overall, the county’s sales tax receipts were projected to decrease 13 percent due to the Medicaid swap.
Last year, the county got $23 million in sales taxes. This year if trends continue, the county will take in about $18.5 million.
Early on, the state had projected 3 percent growth in sales tax collections this fiscal year. The state later lowered that projected growth to 1 percent.
The county budgeted $20.7 million and will end up $2.2 million in the hole as of June 30.
Looking to the fiscal year that starts July 1, Heidrick said the state projected a drop of 1 percent from actual receipts this past year. Now the projection is for a 4 percent decrease.
County Manager Gary Page said recently if sales tax revenue continues falling and other revenue sources decline, county employees could face additional furlough days by January and other cuts may be necessary.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.

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