JONESBORO — Several factors in local commerce changed between May 2019 and May 2020, but when all the money was accounted for, collections of Craighead County’s 1 percent sales tax were up by 10.48 percent, despite the coronavirus pandemic and the aftermath of the March 28 tornado.
The tornado appears to be a factor in increased collections.
Cities and counties received their local sales tax collections on July 22, generally reflecting taxes collected by merchants in May.
County government and 10 municipalities will share $1,900,990, based on population.
Jonesboro’s separate 1 percent sales tax will provide the city an extra $1,696,077, an increase of $129,653, or 8.3 percent from July 2019. Through this month, the city’s sales tax has produced $11,467,906, an increase of $362,899, or 3.3 percent from the first seven months of 2019.
While tornado damage shut down several businesses in April and May, other businesses reported increased sales as businesses and households began rebuilding.
For example, businesses selling building materials and supplies collected $185,176 in county sales taxes in May, up from $150,950 at the same time last year. Businesses selling other general merchandise collected $324,564 this year, compared to $265,620 last year.
With several businesses, including restaurants, either closed, working under reduced capacity or their employees working remotely as a result of the pandemic, other business sectors have seen a different impact.
For example, collections at full-service restaurants were $60,548 in May, down from $72,470 in 2019. Limited service restaurants collected $26,197, compared to $24,513 a year earlier.
On the other hand, sales at grocery stores accounted for $119,619 in collections in May, up from $87,365 a year ago.
Clothing and department stores, impacted both by the tornado and the pandemic, showed sharp reductions in tax collections. Department store collections were down from $30,954 in May 2019 to just $6,930 this May. Collections from clothing stores were down from $41,032 to $31,789.
Arkansas and the county also continue to see growth in collections from out-of-state businesses that sell merchandise to Craighead County residents online. Out-of-state vendors were first required to remit state and local sales taxes in July 2019. In that category, collections rose from from $24,141 to $98,388, and now accounts for about 5 percent of all local sales taxes collected.
With the ban on large gatherings, collections from the motion picture and video industries dropped from $7,169 in May 2019 to a mere $88 this past May.
More local businesses may benefit from an improved employment picture in coming months. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday that unemployment in the Jonesboro Metropolitan Area dropped from 8.5 percent in May to 7.7 percent in June, meaning 600 fewer people were officially unemployed.
However, a year ago, the unemployment rate was 2.8, a difference of almost 3,000 people in Craighead and Poinsett counties from a year ago.
July distribution of the Craighead County sales tax (based on May taxable activity), with each entity’s percentage share of the money in parentheses and year-to-date totals:
Jonesboro (69.74), $1,332,029, $9,002,480.
Craighead County (18.35), $350,538, $2,369,102.
Bay (1.87), $35,666, $241,045.
Black Oak (0.27), $5,188, $35,066.
Bono (2.21), $42,201, $285,213.
Brookland (2.04), $38,993, $263,530.
Caraway (1.33), $25,328, $171,181.
Cash (0.35), $6,773, $45,773.
Egypt (0.12), $2,218, $14,990.
Lake City (2.16), $41,230, $278,655.
Monette (1.56), $29,725, $200,894.