By BOB PALMER
Jimplecute News Editor
A dramatic $10,000 decline in Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue to the City of Jefferson in the first quarter of 2019 cast a shadow on an otherwise encouraging economic picture. Sales tax revenue for March to both city and county was up.
Unemployment in the region is down. HOT revenue comes from room occupancy taxes at local hotels as well as Bed and Breakfasts. “I feel like the changes the Tourism Board has made will lead to positive results,” Kari Alexander, Marion County Chamber of Commerce executive director said.
“In December and January, things were in a state of change. I’m not surprised HOT revenue is down.” Alexander added that a new advertising program is just now kicking off. Jefferson Mayor Charles “Bubba” Haggard noted the closing of the Jefferson Hotel would have a negative impact on HOT revenue.
Although Jefferson showed a 69 percent sales tax revenue decline in the first quarter, the hiccup appeared due more to the state correcting an accounting error last year than a decrease in local sales.
March sales tax revenue for Jefferson was $58,000, up 23 percent from March, 2018. Marion County received $27,745 in March sales tax revenue, an 8.95 percent increase over last year.
“State sales tax revenue growth was again strong in March, as we saw increased collections in all major economic sectors, including retail trade, information services, oil and gas and restaurants,” Glenn Hegar, Texas comptroller, said.
“Much of the increase stemmed more from consumer spending rather than business spending.” Total state sales tax revenue for the three months ending in March 2019 was up 7.3 percent compared to the same period a year ago.
Sales tax is the largest source of state funding for the state budget, accounting for 57 percent of all tax collections. Data from the Texas Workforce Commission shows the statewide unemployment rate is 3.7 percent, with more than 17,000 jobs added in February.
In the Longview SMA, unemployment improved from 4.5 percent of the labor force in February of 2018 to 4 percent this year, despite the size of the labor force increasing by 600 workers.
Although Marion County is not in the Longview-Marshall MSA, its data may also indicate local trends. Statewide mining and timber employment improved 19,000 jobs in the first quarter, or better than 8 percent growth. Manufacturing also improved by 32,000 jobs from February of 2018.
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