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Longview sales tax revenues set record, up 19% from year ago

By Mike Elswick
Dec. 12, 2012 at 10 p.m.

Sales tax revenues for Longview, Gregg County and a number of East Texas cities took a big turn in a positive direction this month.

Longview's monthly sales tax revenues, up 19 percent from a year ago, set a record for the month. The city's revenue was up more than $415,000 compared to December 2011, while Gregg County's revenues were up 13 percent.

Kathi Holbert, with Louis Morgan Drug No. 4 at Judson and Johnston streets, said that news was no surprise to her.

"We had a great November and expect to be up in December, too," she said of sales. "And it's been pretty much across the board - from things like personalized cutting boards to our Vera Bradley line."

Tammy Dorsey, with Longview's Army Navy Store, said the Loop 281 location has been busy.

"Business has been great this year - really good," Dorsey said.

Longview jeweler Jim Bartlett, owner of Jim Bartlett Fine Jewelry, said he shared national sentiment that third quarter sales were soft across the nation.

"But our fourth quarter is on track to be our best in four years," Bartlett said. "Our sales are up substantially."

East Texans appear to have shunned all the negative national focus on economic uncertainty tied to the November general elections, the effect of health care changes and the fiscal cliff. Bartlett said many people who had taken a "wait and see" attitude on the election and other issues are buying in East Texas.

"That just shows you that Washington and Wall Street don't rule - main street does," he said.

Longview will be receiving $2.594 million in sales tax revenues for the month, up from the $2.179 million it received a year ago.

It is also the highest December sales tax revenue month since the pre-recession December 2008, when the city received $2.95 million from that source of revenue.

December revenue to cities and counties is based on taxes collected in October, reported to the Texas Comptroller's Office in November with the local share disbursed back to cities and counties in December.

Gregg County's monthly sales tax revenue increase of 13 percent equates into an additional $159,000 going to the county this month compared to December 2012.

"People are starting to feel a little bit better about things and are starting to spend," said Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt. "We're seeing slow, steady growth with a lot of construction going on and jobs out there for people who want them."

With growth in the local medical, educational and commercial sectors combined with highway construction projects, Stoudt said he feels positive.

"I'm very optimistic. There are a lot of projects out there underway, and they create a domino effect of even more growth," he said.

For Longview, the big increase is especially welcome after the first two months of the 2012 fiscal year started out with drops in sales tax revenue compared to the previous year, according to city spokesman Shawn Hara.

"After two months that were significantly down, this month's sales tax revenues were significantly up," Hara said. "For this fiscal year, we are now right on track for budget, which had figured an overall 1 percent decrease in sales tax revenue as compared to the prior year."

Hara said sales tax revenues fluctuate, and city officials will continue to monitor that source of income closely.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said Wednesday that state sales tax revenue in November was $2.34 billion, up 13.1 percent compared to a year ago.



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