BROWNWOOD, Texas - The city of Brownwood released its March sales tax collection numbers on Monday and noted a decline of 3.7 percent – the third straight month with a downward trend.
But the Texas Comptroller’s website shows a steeper decrease for March, which reflects sales in January, at 27 percent. Brownwood City Councilman Jerry DeHay said that doesn’t paint an accurate picture.
“When we try to compare sales tax revenue from this year to last year, it’s kind of an apples to oranges type of thing,” DeHay said on Monday. “We’re not dealing with the same base.”
The drop appears larger because the comptroller’s office now directly sends the Brownwood Municipal Development District a quarter of the tax revenue check the city receives.
Last year, voters approved changing the Brownwood Economic Development Corporation into the BMDD. Before that vote, the city would collect the money and then reallocate a quarter to the BEDC, a process that no longer falls on the city’s shoulders.
“[The MDD] is structured so that [the funds] come off the top, before the state sends us the money,” DeHay said.
The city’s finance director, Walter Middleton, wrote in an email that Brownwood experienced sales tax collection declines of 11.4 percent in February and 8.7 percent in January.
The closing of Staples is factored into the sales tax declines, but other businesses have benefited.
Office Furniture Supply, located on 220 Center Ave, has been in Brownwood since 1897 and is the city’s only independently owned office supply store.
“Really our business has picked up,” salesman Kevin Holamon said on Monday. “Particularly our walk in traffic coming into our front door.”
He said the store, which first opened as Greenwood Office Supply, has seen its walk-in traffic more than double since Staples shut its doors.
DeHay believes one way to shore up the sales tax base in the city is to attract more restaurants. It’s something that concerns businessman Steve Weckworth, who owns the city’s two Subways.
“We bought the stores in 1996, we’ve had a lot of growth,” Weckworth said. “But, we’ve seen a lot of additional restaurants brought into town. Do we feel a slight impact immediately? Yes.”
But Weckworth said he’s not afraid of a little competition.
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