Retail sales across Northeast Mississippi remained sluggish in March with Columbus, Tupelo and several other big retail centers taking some of the hardest hits.
State Department of Revenue figures show taxes collected on March consumer purchases were down in 49 of 84 towns across the region. Total collections in the 84 towns were down about 1 percent from a year earlier.
It was the third straight month of flat or negative numbers.
Sales tax revenue numbers released in May reflect taxes collected on March retail sales. The taxes are collected by the businesses in the month of the sale, turned over to the state the next month and then distributed to cities in following month.
In March 2012, collections were up in 52 of 84 towns. Amory, Columbus, Corinth, New Albany, Pontotoc, Tupelo and West Point all saw declines in revenue compared to the previous year.
Starkville, Oxford, Louisville and Fulton saw small increases.
Nowhere are stagnant sales tax collections being felt more than in Columbus. The decline in March retail sales marked the seventh straight month of declines in the city and the 10th in the last 11 months.
In those 11 months, tax revenues are down some $200,000 compared to the previous year. It’s the worst string of declines in more than three years.
Although city leaders have been unable to pinpoint any single cause, the lack of major industrial construction since Kior was completed last fall is one major overriding cause.
With sales tax revenues making up 45 percent of the city’s operating budget, officials have begun looking at ways to cut expenses while trying to recruit more businesses to increase collections.