May sales tax reports continue mixed in Verde Valley

Cottonwood only community up in retail tax revenue

VERDE VALLEY - The sales tax collections report from the Arizona Department of Revenue for May shows mixed results for the communities in the Verde Valley. Cottonwood is the only community up for May in retail sales tax collections, and it is one of only two communities showing an increase in total sales tax revenue over the same month last year.

Cottonwood collected $640,997 in retail sales tax, which is up from $636,953 from May of 2010. Cottonwood also showed a small increase in total sales tax collections for May, increasing from $926,705 last year to $928,118 this year.

But Cottonwood is down in year-to-date total sales tax revenue through May from $9,862,363 last year to $9,452,902 for the same period this year.

One interesting tax category for Cottonwood shows an increase through May in Arts & Entertainment. That category climbed from $11,504 in 2010 to $38,304 in 2011.

President and CEO of the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce, Lana Tolleson, said she cannot explain that increase specifically, but she points to a couple of probable businesses that could be helping to drive the increase.

"I know the Old Town Center for the Arts has increased its attendance a lot," Tolleson said. "They're having quite a few performances."

She thought that Blazin' M Ranch also is having a positive impact. "Their business is getting back on track."

Tolleson said that in general, some of the chamber members are saying that their businesses are booming right now. She said that one thing the chamber is seeing is that people have conserved for so long during the economic downturn, that some people are starting to gain confidence and loosening up on the spending a little bit.

Camp Verde was down in May from the same month last year in retail sales tax and total sales tax collections. Year-to-date sales tax revenue is also down from $1,874,779 through May last year to $1,612,636 this year.

In the sales tax category for Accommodations, collections dropped through this May to $75,827 from $100,991 last May.

Tracie Schimikowski of the Camp Verde Chamber of Commerce believes that drop in Accommodation sales tax is directly related to lost bed taxes from one motel being closed.

"It was almost a year that Days Inn was closed," she said. "A whole year of no bed tax from a hotel is a pretty significant amount."

Clarkdale was down in both the retail sales tax and total sales tax categories for May compared with last year. But Clarkdale saw a good increase in year-to-date collections from $579,871 through May of 2010 to $650,600 for the same period this year.

Although Jerome dropped slightly in retail sales tax revenue for May from last year, the town saw a small increase in total tax collections for May over last year.

Year-to-date sales tax revenue for Jerome climbed to $552,379 through May from $481,107 for the same period last year.

The category for Restaurant and Bar sales tax climbed through May to $181,825 from $157,904 for the same period in 2010.

Tom Pitts, president of the Jerome Chamber of Commerce, said he is seeing some regular customers again that he hasn't seen for a while. "A lot of people who used to go out to eat, stopped," he said. He added that those people are now starting to come back.

"I feel we're seeing a little bit of a return," Pitts said about Jerome's economy in general.

Recent national news stories have reported that high fuel prices have cut into the discretionary income of many families, having an adverse impact on the economy. A report this week tied rising food costs directly to the high fuel costs.

Schimikowski said she doesn't have any trouble imagining that fuel costs do impact the economy. "But I haven't heard anything specific," she said.

She said fuel prices must have a negative impact, but she cannot point to exactly what it is.

Tolleson agreed that fuel costs do impact the economy, but it is very difficult to identify exactly where the impact is within the local economy.

"I haven't had anyone relate specifically," she said. "I've seen it personally going to the grocery store."

Tolleson said that if prices for shipping costs go up, businesses do have to pass that along to customers. But she said no local business people have said anything to her specifically about the impact of high fuel costs.

"I think it has had an impact," said Pitts. "One thing for sure, we're seeing a lot of people taking shorter trips. I'm also seeing people taking a vacation and not going anywhere."

Pitts said that more visitors to Jerome are from within the local region, and fewer are from outside the region.

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