Jonesboro has collected $11.6 million in city sales and use tax in the first seven months of 2016, up 5.1% over the same period in 2015, according to the city. Craighead County sales tax collections totaled $12.8 million in sales and use taxes, up 5.2%, or $639,000, from the same period in 2015, according to the county.
The numbers mirror a steady trend in the city and county’s sales tax collections. Jonesboro collected $15 million in sales tax in 2012, rising to $16.6 million by 2015, according to figures released. Craighead County experienced a similar rise during that period. The county collected $16.7 million in 2012, and that amount ballooned to $18.4 million in 2015.
If this year’s numbers hold, it will be a record breaking year in terms of sales and use tax collections, Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin told Talk Business & Politics.
Numerous factors tie into the county and city’s consistent sales and use tax expansion, but one of the primary reasons is Jonesboro’s long-standing, steady population growth, said Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mark Young. Since the 1970s, the city’s population has grown by up to 3% percent each year.
Jonesboro has an estimated population of about 71,000. More people equates to more customers, he said. The numbers released are based on a 1-cent sales tax collected by the city, and a 1-cent sales tax collected by the county.
“It’s really an important statistic for our community,” Young said. “It shows steady growth, something all communities strive for.”
Sales tax receipts have been up nearly every month this year in the county and city, as compared to 2015. Collections hit their high water mark in February when the county raked in $2 million, and the city hauled in $1.8 million. Collections were slightly down in June for the city and and county. Sales tax receipts were down about 1% that month for the city and county.
Another reason why the tax numbers have been better is the region’s low unemployment, Young said. Since January, the county’s unemployment rate has dropped by three-tenths of a point to 3.6% in June. Its low point for the year was 2.7% in April, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Low unemployment and a diverse retail sector, give residents and visitors with money lots of places to spend it, Young said. There are also some reasons to think that sales tax revenues will further increase in the coming years, Young said.
Two convention centers, one near Interstate 555 and the other on the Arkansas State University campus, will be built in the next two years, as will two hotels. The centers should draw thousands of overnight visitors to the city. The NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine also began its program earlier this month on the ASU campus, and it should provide another cache of students who wouldn’t otherwise be here, Young said.
Healthcare expansion continues to be a primary economic driver in the region. St. Bernards will continue its $130 million renovation, and other healthcare businesses will expand their services. Companies throughout the city and county continue to grow, and add jobs, meaning more money will circulate, and tax receipts are a reflection of that, he said.
“This is the kind of problem lots of communities would like to have,” he said.