Most Tarrant cities see drop in December sales tax revenue

Posted Wednesday, Feb. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

Sales tax collections

For the full list of Tarrant County sales tax figures, go to the state comptroller's Web site,


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Christmas shoppers didn't bring in the sales tax boost some Tarrant County cities were expecting.

A majority of Tarrant County cities, including Arlington, Grapevine and North Richland Hills, saw a decrease in their December 2012 sales tax collections compared with December 2011, according to sales tax figures released by the state Wednesday. The cities' February allocation totals also include revenue filed by businesses that remit their sales taxes on a quarterly or annual basis.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said state sales tax revenue has increased for 34 consecutive months. Overall, Texas collected $2.12 billion in sales taxes in January, up 6.1 percent from January 2011.

"Growth in sales tax receipts was led by the construction, retail trade and restaurant sectors," Combs stated in a prepared statement Wednesday. "Receipts from oil and natural gas-related activity also continue to be strong."

Statewide, cities saw an average increase of 3.6 percent for their February allocations. While cities like Fort Worth and Grand Prairie saw healthy increases, many other Tarrant County cities saw declines ranging from 0.04 percent in Mansfield to a 42.71 percent decrease for Pelican Bay, which was only about $1,100 less in sales taxes for that 1,500 person community.

Arlington's sales tax check from the state for the past Christmas shopping season will be 3.57 percent smaller - about $400,000 less - than the one from 2011.

"The December sales tax matters because it's the single biggest check we will get all year," budget manager Mike Finley said.

He added that Arlington had been expecting better news and that he could not point to anything specifically that would explain the decline.

"It's not catastrophic," Finley said. "We certainly would have preferred it to be up."

With Wednesday's news, sales tax collections for Arlington are now $670,000 lower than expected for this fiscal year, Finley said.

"To say Arlington is in trouble is premature, but we are concerned," Finley said.

Euless collected 16.7 percent more sales taxes in December than the previous December.

"Over the past year our numbers have steadily been gaining. We are not quite back to pre-recession numbers but we are getting there," Euless spokeswoman Betsy Deck said. "We have a pretty diverse base of businesses here and we're seeing increases over all the industries. We hope these are good signs the economy is heading in the right direction."

Even though Bedford brought in about $22,000 less this December than December 2011, officials there say sales tax revenues so far this fiscal year exceed last year's total for the same time period by about 1.8 percent.

Hurst Finance Director Clay Caruthers said the city wasn't projecting a large increase from because of factors including road construction and current economic conditions but the 4.23 percent decline was unexpected. Caruthers said the $88,000 drop should not have a major impact on the city's operations and the city still expects to see a 2 or 3 percent increase in sales tax collections this fiscal year over last.

"If we do have some declines like in the month of February for December sales taxes we can absorb that in the budget," Caruthers said.

Fort Worth, in contrast, put in another strong month, up 4.62 percent at $12.48 million from the same month the prior year, with development continuing to pick up.

Sales tax accounts for 18 percent of the city's $583 million general fund budget, and is now up $1.9 million over the budgeted amount for the first three months of the year, said Horatio Porter, the city's chief financial officer.

"We took a very conservative approach to the [2013] budget, because we knew there were some national headwinds," Porter said. "We're very encouraged."

Even better was news emerging from Washington Wednesday: Congress may be nearing a deal on legislation to head off automatic spending cuts that could cut deeply into Tarrant County's defense industry, Porter said.

"If that's the case, while we're being really cautious, we're optimistic things will continue to improve through the year," Porter said.

Staff writer Scott Nishimura contributed to this report.

Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578

Twitter: @susanschrock

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