Despite a rough month fraught with closures and limited business, Denison saw an increase in sales tax revenues for the month of March.
The city of Denison is reporting that its sales tax receipts for the month of March were about 3.2 percent higher than those for the same period in 2019. This comes during in a time in which many businesses began shuttering storefront amid fears of COVID-19.
“Overall our net payment for the March period was up about 3.2 percent, which was a big surprise for us — a welcome surprise for sure,” City Manager Jud Rex said.
For the month of March, the city collected about $760,000 in sales tax revenues. This was about $24,000 more than it collected one year prior.
During initial projections, city leaders anticipated that Denison could have seen a 15 percent decrease in revenues for March.
While Denison saw a slight bump in its sales taxes, its neighbor to the south received less positive news. Officials with the city of Sherman said the city saw a five percent decrease in its sales tax revenues for the same period.
Despite this, Sherman leaders breathed a sign of relief at this news as initial predictions had the city seeing a 15 to 20 percent decrease for the month.
Rex said it was difficult to say why Denison saw a slight increase in sales taxes, but more detail may come once leaders see a breakdown of revenues in coming weeks.
“Without having the details, it is hard to say (why) for sure,” Rex said. “I think for the March period, which this covers, while the closures began at the latter half of March, I guess it didn’t take affect and impact what we are looking at here.”
Rex said the difference between the two cities could be due to the differences between their retail markets. Many of Sherman’s big-box businesses were shuttered during the month of March, while Denison’s businesses were affected less heavily, he said.
“A lot of our base is essential businesses, restaurants which remained open doing curbside and delivery options,” Rex said. “We have a different retail footprint than Sherman does, for sure, and I think that is a good thing for us as we try to get through this.”
Rex said March’s numbers were a small victory for Denison, but he remained cautious about the forecast for the remainder of the year. Rex noted that while a three percent increase for March is a relief for city leaders, the city budgeted for a six percent increase in revenue for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
Current predictions for Denison’s sales tax revenue for 2019-2020 see an estimated $900,000 shortfall, Rex said.
“Sure, three percent is a victory considering the many closures ... but it is still less than we budgeted for,” Rex said. “We are going to proceed cautiously and continue to be prudent with the dollars we have.”
Early projections for March show an even steeper decline than what was predicted for March. Rex said a 27 percent loss for the month of April is possible due to the wide closures of many businesses.
The city is already taking steps to reduce its spending for the remainder of the year under fears that revenues will continue to be below expectations.
“We are still proceeding with the hiring freeze we are under, the expense reductions that we put in place as well,” he said. “While we are hoping for the best case, we are certainly preparing for the worst case.”
Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at email@example.com.