Cole County: Revenue from sales taxes is flat

Official: Better to not plan on growth

Sales tax collections in Cole County can be described in one word — flat.

That’s according to Presiding Commissioner Marc Ellinger.

“I’d love to see growth, not just for the revenue, but to see communities growing,” he said. “Economic activity is slow nationally, and it’s slow here.”

Cole County has three sales-tax revenue sources: a half-cent sales tax for the county’s ambulance service, a half-cent sales tax for law enforcement, and a half-cent capital improvement sales tax.

• Through May, Cole County collected nearly $2.1 million for the half-cent ambulance service sales tax.

When voters approved the tax in 2008, the County Commission agreed to roll back the property tax levy for the county’s general fund. Sixty percent of what’s collected goes to the property tax rollback and the other 40 percent is used to operate the ambulance service.

For the first five months of 2013, the rollback takes more than $1.2 million from the total collection amount, leaving a net sales tax so far of $836,482.

For all of 2012, the county collected more than $5.3 million, with a rollback of $3.2 million ending with a net sales tax of $2.1 million. Those figures are only a few thousand dollars more than final figures from 2011.

• The half-cent sales tax for law enforcement has brought in nearly $2.1 million for the first five months of 2013. For all of 2012 and 2011, the tax brought in more than $5.3 million.

• The half-cent capital improvement sales tax has brought in nearly $2.1 million in the first five months of 2013. For all of last year and 2011, the tax brought in more than $5.3 million each year.

Cole County Finance Director Debbie Malzner said, “We have based our sales tax budgets for the past three years on the actual amounts of the prior year with no increase. For the year 2014, I will recommend the same at this point based on the results of the first five months of collections this year.”

“Right now, we are at less than one percent from where we were last year in collections, and I don’t think that’s a big deal,” Ellinger said. “We budget for zero growth and whatever growth we get, we put into reserves, so when we are down we have reserves to help. We’ve taken a position that we can’t assume growth. It’s a belief that flat is the wave of the future.”

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