Revenues down in September

Decrease likely due to slowing economy, Sept. 11 attacks

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— The city may have felt its first sign of the financial fallout stemming from the events of Sept. 11 as city sales-tax revenues dropped by about 6 percent in September as compared to last September.

Although city records indicate sales-tax revenues went up by .03 percent in September, those records were skewed by two retailers that changed their accounting procedures, said Finance Director Don Taylor.

Those "major retailers" recently changed their tax remittance schedules to break the year into 13 periods as opposed to 12. They gave two periods worth of revenue to the city in September, Taylor said Tuesday in front of the City Council.

Taylor would not identify the retailers.

That left the city with more revenue sources than it would have had in September 2000 and thus an artificial indication of a strong economy. The city's sales-tax revenues for the year to date are still up about 5 percent.

Although September is not one of the city's biggest sales-tax months, it is not the smallest. The city typically takes in almost $1 million in September, at least over the past few years.

Council members noted the decrease and pointed to both an economy probably already in recession on Sept. 1 and to the potentially disastrous implications of the events of Sept. 11.

"I'm concerned because I think it is reflecting what we in business in this community have known has been happening," said Council President Kathy Connell. "We were going downhill but Sept. 11 definitely put us in a frozen marketplace for a significant period of time."

Connell, who part-owns a property management company, said she did not get many phone calls from tourists in September after the terrorist attacks and knows other businesses were similarly challenged.

"Tourism stopped on Sept. 11," added Council President Pro Tem Paul Strong. "I think we're going to see more components of that."

Strong said he did not see as many hunters in town this fall, possibly accounting for a decrease in revenues.

The number of hunters visiting the area did decrease this year, according to the Division of Wildlife.

Connell said she hopes the economy bounces back but isn't sure if spending being off in September is entirely a bad sign, especially given the tragic events of that month. She said people may have been reacting to the turmoil by staying home and reconnecting with family and friends.

"It's a value shift and I don't think it's all bad," she said.

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