Year-end sales tax report mixed for Verde Valley

Some signs of economic life in Cottonwood

VERDE VALLEY – While the June sales tax report for communities in the Verde Valley remains mixed, there are some bright spots that may indicate that the economy is trying to improve. The report comes from the Office of Economic Research and Analysis of the Arizona Department of Revenue. The June report also serves as the end of the fiscal year.

Cottonwood saw an increase in retail sales tax revenue for June from $568,715 last year to $586,593 this year. Cottonwood also saw an increase in retail sales tax collections for the fiscal year over 2010 and 2009.

Lana Tolleson, president and CEO of the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce, sees some encouraging signs for the local economy.

“We are hearing from a number of our members that business is picking up,” Tolleson said. She said that isn’t across the board for all businesses, but it is happening in a number of areas.

“It’s exciting that certain segments of the economy are improving,” she said. “We’re not up to the top of the hill yet.”

Even so, there are some encouraging signs. Based on the bed-tax reports, Tolleson said, “More visitors are coming to the Verde Valley.”

Not only is hotel occupancy up, but also the chamber may be seeing early signs of improvement to the local real estate market.

“A lot of people are coming into the office saying they are looking at relocating here,” Tolleson said. “A very large number of people.”

She said that people shopping locally does in fact help the local economy. But having an increase in visitors to the area will give the local economy a real boost. “Bringing that new money in is what grows the economy,” Tolleson said.

Camp Verde is still struggling with its sales tax revenues. Retail sales tax collections were down for the month of June as were the year-to-date totals. The town is also down in retail tax revenue for the fiscal year compared with 2010 and 2009.

Although construction sales taxes dropped from $353,081 for fiscal year 2010 to $142,535 for 2011, that figure for June of this year is in itself misleading, according to Camp Verde City Manager Russ Martin.

“Some of that was an emphasis on getting people who should have been paying, to pay,” Martin said. Camp Verde is now making an effort, according to Martin, to collect taxes that should have been paid earlier. While it helps the city with revenue, it doesn’t point to a turnaround in construction.

That is something that Martin says he is working on. He said staff is doing its best to stir things up in the construction business by working to bring new development and business to town.

“There are people out there who want to invest and build,” Martin said.

Camp Verde Chamber of Commerce Director Tracie Schimikowski said that if retail sales are beginning to improve, she hasn’t been hearing that from the chamber’s members. But she does see some positive signs.

“Last year, during the holidays, Walgreens was busier than they’ve ever been,” Schimikowski said.

As far as the retail business in general in Camp Verde, Schimikowski said, “It depends on the day you ask.”

She said it is a good sign that the town has not lost any major retail stores, and she says that during the last holiday season the local stores seemed to be busy.

The Camp Verde economy still lags, though. “People just aren’t spending as much as they used to,” Schimikowski said. “Shopping online has increased significantly.” She believes the online shopping is causing some of the retail sales decline.

Clarkdale was up in both retail sales tax and total sales tax collections for June over the same month last year. Year-to-date sales tax revenue climbed to $720,550 through June this year from $638,862 for the same month last year.

Jerome is enjoying increases in its monthly sales tax revenue. Retail sales tax was up in June to $24,163 from $21,035 last year. Total sales tax for June also increased to $59,355 this year from $57,967 last year.

Year-to-date total sales tax revenue for June 2011 jumped to $611,734 from $539,074 for the same month in 2010.

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