The most recent sales tax receipts for Lake of the Ozarks area cities far exceed what they were a year ago, while year-to-date totals reflect a sustained, but more moderate increase.
Eldon's May general sales tax receipts, which reflect tax revenue reported in March, are up 24 percent from the city's May 2013 receipts. The city's 1-cent general fund sales tax totaled $61,173 this March, compared with $49,976 last March, with similar increases in the 1/2-cent capital improvement tax, 4/10-cent transportation tax, 3/8-cent pool-park tax and 1/8-cent community center and parks tax.
"It's a good indication that sales tax is looking good for the year," said Eldon Mayor Ron Bly.
The story is similar in Osage Beach and Lake Ozark, where sales tax receipts appear to be up despite inflated numbers from tax increment financing (TIF) districts.
May receipts for Osage Beach's 1-cent general sales tax total $315,721, a 49 percent increase from this time last year. However, some of that inflated revenue can be attributed to the city's newest TIF district at the Dierbergs/Lakeview Pointe shopping center.
A portion of the increased sales and property tax collected in a newly developed TIF district is used to recoup costs for certain improvements associated with the development, so those tax monies do not reach the city's general fund. Dierbergs and other stores in the shopping center opened for business in spring 2013, making 2014 the first year Osage Beach has collected sales tax from those businesses.
Similarly, Lake Ozark's May sales tax receipts are up almost 30 percent from last year's, excluding revenue for the 1/4-percent utility operations sales tax implemented in April 2013. Lake Ozark's sales tax revenue also includes taxes collected in the Shoppes at Eagles Landing TIF district.
Camdenton's May receipts are up 13.7 percent from 2013 May receipts, with similar increases in its 1/2-cent transportation and capital improvement sales taxes.
The cities' year-to-date sales tax revenue is up from this time last year as well, but the increase is a more modest one. Receipts from January through May are up 5.8 percent in Lake Ozark, 4 percent in Eldon, and 3.7 percent in Camdenton and Osage Beach from the same time a year ago.
Osage Beach City Administrator Nancy Viselli noted that significant month-by-month changes might be attributable to how certain businesses report their sales taxes.
"Many times, companies do not pay their taxes on time, so one month we may be lower than usual and the next month they pay for two and the numbers go up," she said. "There are also some changes to the state's policy, I believe, depending on how much revenue a company takes in - where they used to have to pay monthly, I think now some of the smaller ones only have to be quarterly or semi-annually."
City officials are hopeful the recent upturn is a good sign for the retail economy, but aren't certain of the causes.
"It's a month-to-month thing ... It's like you're running a business and you figure out once a month how much you sold that month," Bly said. "There's been a lot more retail activity in town."
Eldon's April receipts - for the February reporting period - were also 22 percent higher overall than in April 2013, but the March receipts for January reporting were 17 percent lower than in March 2013. Osage Beach's April receipts were just under 1 percent higher than in April 2013, and the city's March receipts were almost 14 percent lower than in March 2013. While Camdenton's May receipts were up from last year's, the city's April receipts were down slightly at 2 percent lower than in April 2013.
"Activities at the lake and the weather play a huge part in our sales revenues," Viselli said. "Earlier in the year when it was extremely cold, people stayed in St. Louis and Kansas City, and the locals stayed home. Now that the weather is changing, people are anxious to get out and do things, so they are spending more money. Nice weather also brings the second homeowners down, as do special events."
"The trend is going up," Bly said. "I think this next month will tell the tale."