Slumps in sales tax collections early this year due to business shutdowns and other changes made in hopes of lessening the effects of COVID-19 could turn out to be less of a problem than expected for Dayton-area county governments.
Sales tax collected in eight area counties surrounding Dayton this year through May is down just 1.2 percent compared to 2019, according to the most recent Ohio Department of Taxation data examined by the Dayton Daily News.
This better-than-expected result was despite a drop of nearly 11 percent in May sales tax collections in those same eight counties compared to the same month last year.
Greene County Administrator Brandon Huddleson said it was too early to breathe a sigh of relief and warned of rough going ahead.
“We started out the year very strong and receipts lag collections, so we have not seen the worst of it yet. We were down 17.2% in May and 18.7% in June from the same time last year,” Huddleson said of his projections.
SALES TAX COLLECTIONS
|Rate||May-20||May-19||Change||Jan.-May 2020||Jan.-May 2019||Change|
|Source: Ohio Department of Taxation|
Greene County’s May sales collections were down nearly more than $420,000. Yet Greene County Auditor David Graham said he overestimated the overall impact.
“I personally expected sales tax to plummet during the shutdown, but the decrease was not nearly as significant as I had expected. A 20% decrease is significant during normal cycles, but during the shutdown the results were surprising,” Graham said in an email.
“Property taxes, which are the most stable of all tax revenue, remained stable. There was a slight decrease in second-half collection compared to the prior year, which could be attributed to a slight increase in the delinquency rate.
In Warren County, where tourism is counted on for a big share of county revenue, sales tax projections were “down overall 1.09% from the same time last year,” County Administrator Tiffany Zindel said this month, before the August distribution.
Zindel said May receipts to be received on Aug. 20 from the state were down about 7% over last year and non-auto sales 3%.
In addition to tourism, Warren County typically wins big from taxes on car sales.
“Obviously if auto sales were strong in June this could bring us back into a positive,” Zindel added.
In Ohio, sales and use tax is assessed on “retail sale, lease, and rental of tangible personal property as well as the sale of selected services in Ohio. In transactions where sales tax was due but not collected by the vendor or seller, a use tax of equal amount is due from the customer,” according to the Department of Taxation.
Counties also benefit from conveyance fees on real estate sales which showed “continued strength” and state local government funding changes, which are so far “similar to those seen in sales taxes.” Graham explained. “These monies are state shared revenues from a number of their state levied taxes. These monies are received one month after the monies are collected where county sales tax revenues are delayed two months.”
Preble County Auditor Lavon Wright said her county remained up $144,357 for the year, including a $95,000 gain over the 2019 collections, after receiving $580,454 from the state this week.
“I haven’t really had a lot of decrease in my sales tax,” she said, noting residents of her rural county, who might otherwise of left the area for vacation, are staying home.
“Cars and houses are still selling. We’re all going to WalMart,” she added.
Through May, Montgomery County was down more than $850,000 compared to last year, but less than $242,000 for the year.
Changes of about $29.6 million made in anticipation of a COVID-induced slump have made up for the losses, according to Montgomery County officials.
In April, the county made $17.9 million in budget “adjustments,” including freezes on travel and hiring, expected to save more than $7 million. In June, another $5 million was cut, including the transfer of a $1.5 million commitment to the Preschool Promise to the county human-services levy. in July and August, another $3 million, including $15 million set aside for professional service, was pared from the budget. More is planned.
“The County Commissioners took quick and decisive action to declare a state of emergency and ensure our essential operations could continue even during the height of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders. We also launched the Office of CARES Act to distribute $92 million in federal funding to our community through grant programs for housing assistance, small businesses, nonprofits, education and healthcare institutions, and the agriculture industry.” County Administrator Michael Colbert said.
Credit: JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Credit: JIM NOELKER/STAFF
Commissioner Judy Dodge added, “We are focused on the future and acting in the best interest of the community. We are investing in projects to support community and economic development, such as The Hope Center for Families, the Ohio Business College Truck Driving School, the Gem City Market, and our new Westown Career and Innovation Center. These brick and mortar investments will help ensure the long-term recovery of our community and improve the lives of citizens in historically under-served neighborhoods.”
Although Greene County is up 4.7 percent over last year in sales tax collections to date, Huddleson said it faces “multiple challenges” related to the pandemic.
“We face an ongoing loss of revenue in various sources, COVID-related issues with staff and customers, school/child care issues for staff, lack of legislation that allows for state release of $850 million in additional CARES Act dollars for local government, and several other normal operational challenges,” he said. “Nearly every revenue source is under-performing and they are projected to be lower than last year.”
In response, Greene County “eliminated discretionary spending, suspended capital improvements, implemented a hiring freeze, and we are not approving travel-related requests” in anticipation of $1 million of savings from the cut as well as “deferred capital improvement projects.” Staff has been instructed to buy office supplies, only as needed.
“All of our citizens, staff, and revenue sources have been negatively impacted in some way by the pandemic. People have lost jobs and are concerned about their health and their future,” Huddleson said.
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