As municipalities across the country face dismal sales tax revenues in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the numbers in St. Charles Parish remain relatively steady.
“The coronavirus has not heavily impacted our sales tax numbers,” Sales Tax Director Paula Jeansonne said. “That is, in part, due to consumer purchases increasing.”
Sales tax revenue is analyzed month to month and by the previous year. April 2019 versus April 2020 and May 2019 versus May 2020 both showed an increase in sales tax revenue.
“What this pandemic has shown us is that more people are eating at home and shopping locally,” Jeansonne said. “Where some businesses are heavily impacted, others are benefiting.”
While restaurants and small shops continue to struggle due to occupancy restrictions, grocery stores and other retailers have seen thriving sales in the wake of the pandemic.
Jeansonne said as 2020 continues, revenue may fluctuate as people’s spending habits start to decline as the economic impact of COVID continues to impact jobs.
“It’s crazy how it’s hard to predict,” Jeansonne said of returns. “We thought we would see a reduction in sales tax, and we did from our large industrial taxpayers. But when all of the returns came in, our retailers made up the difference plus a little more.”
Another factor contributing to the uptick of sales tax revenue, Jeansonne said, is the increase in sales taxes the parish continues to see from internet transactions.
A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case on internet sale taxes has led to more and more companies registering as taxpayers in the parish, Jeansonne said, adding with more residents at home and shopping online during the pandemic, the sales tax revenue was up.
St. Charles Parish President Matthew Jewell said he was pleasantly surprised to see sales tax revenues remained steady during the stay at home orders.
“Our residents played a big role in ensuring our sales tax revenues remained stable,” Jewell said. “We found that residents were staying close to home to purchase the items they needed and patronizing our local restaurants, which had an impact on the sales tax revenues. It has been a great example of the importance of shopping and buying local and the impact those actions have on our local economy.”
Jewell said the numbers remain in line with 2020 budget projections, and parish officials would continue to closely monitor revenues.
While April and May numbers each showed an increase, Jeansonne said June’s numbers were different.
“June numbers were a decrease of almost nine percent from June 2019,” she said. “However, for the fiscal year ending 2020, we expect to have only a one to three percent decrease from last year. Prior to this month, we surprisingly saw steady sales tax collections, even after the quarantine.”
June numbers were surprising, she said, in that officials expected the sales tax revenue to decrease much more than it did.
“Last June, a couple of our manufacturing facilities were in the middle of an expansion, so our numbers were higher than normal,” she said.