City faces shortfall as tax collections continue to decline

COLUMBUS — Sales tax collections continue to lag behind last year’s revenue, raising questions about whether the city will have to amend its budget or dip into reserves to make up the difference.

The Commercial Dispatch reports January revenue was reported at about $626,000, a drop of more than $24,000 from the same period in 2012. Year-to-date sales tax collections are down by 2.5 percent compared to the same period last year.

February numbers are expected to indicate a similar drop, marking the sixth consecutive month in which collections have fallen short of the previous year, former chief financial officer Mike Bernsen said.

Bernsen is serving as a consultant for the city as new CFO Milton Rawle gets settled.

Bernsen estimates total sales tax revenue — about $4.3 million so far — is nearly $100,000 lower than last year at the halfway mark of the city’s fiscal year, which runs from October 1 to Sept. 30.

The cause is debatable. Last year’s figures were higher than average, and the drop could represent a return to normal levels, Bernsen said. It could also be the local economy is lagging behind national trends.

A change in the industrial landscape also may have something to do with it. Last fiscal year, construction at KiOR was under way, prompting the purchase of massive quantities of raw materials, Bernsen said.

Likewise, retail sales have fallen as some stores closed in the downtown area.

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