By KEVIN CHIRI
Tammany West news
COVINGTON – With a national economy getting stronger, St. Tammany Parish is reflecting that growth in a big way through sales tax revenue figures that continue to increase every year.
The city of Covington is having a particularly strong year, posting an 8 percent increase in its sales tax money over the past nine months, while Slidell and Mandeville are also showing growth as the two other biggest cities in the parish.
Even the smaller cities in St. Tammany are seeing sales tax revenue increase, with Abita Springs in the midst of an outstanding year with over 12 percent growth in the past nine months.
Covington is heading towards its seventh consecutive year of sales tax growth, but the 2017 fiscal year is exploding with growth at 8 percent, compared to fiscal year 2016.
Mayor Mike Cooper, in the midst of a second term in office after he was re-elected in 2015 with no opposition, said he sees a steady increase in the tourist turnout, sparked by many excellent public events in the historic downtown region.
“I attribute the growth in sales tax revenue primarily to the increased volume of visitors to our city and to our growing population, who shop and patronize our supermarkets, drug stores, retail establishments, restaurants, and hotel/bed and breakfasts,” he said.
“In addition, the number and size of community events have increased over the past year, drawing more and more people to our historic city each day to enjoy all we have to offer.”
Cooper suggested that all of St. Tammany is doing well due to the North Shore region that continues to show population growth for its great atmosphere, low crime and excellent schools.
“We have an inviting, vibrant business climate in Covington and we regularly remind our citizens to shop locally so that we may maximize the reinvestment of sales tax revenue into projects which benefit our community,” he added. “Every opportunity I have, I thank our business owners for their commitment to our city.”
Covington went over $11 million in sales tax dollars for fiscal year 2016 for the first time above that total in the post-Katrina years. This year they should easily eclipse that record-setting number.
In the past nine months the city has put up some big sales tax figures, going over 10 percent increases in August and September of last year, as well as January and February of this year.
November was an especially big month when they saw a 21.8 percent increase in sales tax from the previous year.
Mandeville continues to show steady growth as well and are 2.89 percent higher than the previous nine months. Finance Director Frank Olivier said the city budgeted for a 1.47 percent increase meaning they will likely have a surplus to spend at the end of their budget year in August.
Just as Slidell and Covington have posted increased for seven or eight years in a row, Mandeville has kept pace and also has seen higher sales tax revenue for the past six years, aiming for another improvement this year.
Even though there have been some dramatic swings up-and-down in the sales tax revenue for Slidell during the current fiscal year that ends in June, the city is currently running 1 percent ahead of the previous year in sales tax dollars.
With the city continuing to budget very conservatively, with only a .2 percent increase projected for fiscal year 2017, it should net them another surplus to consider for one-time expenditures.
Last year the city had over $2 million in supplemental money to spend with the city totaling its best sales tax total since the post-Katrina years. Slidell took in $19.3 million in sales tax revenue and had expected to spend approximately $900,000 of their supplemental money to purchase the Pinewood Country Club property. However, that deal fell through so the city is now considering just what to do what that sizeable piece of money.
Abita Springs, Pearl River and Madisonville are much smaller communities with budgets that are no more than a $1 million to $3 million.
Abita Springs is leading those communities as they aim for what will be the eighth consecutive year of sales tax growth.
This year the town is 12.77 percent higher in sales tax revenue for the past nine months than they were the previous year.
Last year saw Abita take in a record total of $840,933 in sales tax money, the most in the town’s history other than when they dealt with Hurricane Katrina money. That was an increase of approximately 4 percent from the 2015 fiscal year, but now they are close to tripling that growth for the current fiscal year.
Pearl River and Madisonville are both running close to even in sales tax money compared to the previous nine months with Pearl River at a negative 1 percent and Madisonville at a negative 0.66 percent.