Carbondale sales show rebound, but still down |

Carbondale sales show rebound, but still down

CARBONDALE – An economic stimulus effort aimed at encouraging local consumers to shop locally may have worked to keep Carbondale sales tax losses in check over the final two months of the year.

Still, the town’s December collection report (reflecting November sales) showed sales taxes down 14.26 percent compared to the same month in 2008, from $265,917 to $227,998.

As yet unknown is how Carbondale retail businesses fared during December, which is typically the town’s biggest month in terms of sales taxes. The town expects sales tax revenues from December to be around $311,000, which would be about a 15 percent decrease from last year.

However, the November numbers are encouraging compared to the previous month when sales taxes were down nearly 18.5 percent, according to the Year-End Sales Tax Report prepared by Carbondale Finance Director Nancy Barnett and Town Manager Tom Baker.

“The total [for the year] shows sales tax revenue down 14.84 percent from 2008,” according to the report. That’s better than mid-year projections, which indicated sales taxes could be down as much as 19 or 20 percent by the end of the year.

The 4 percent different between losses from October to November may have been due to the “Go Green! Get Green!” stimulus campaign, which was launched in November by local merchants and nonprofit organizations.

The campaign, which continued into January, offered customers of Carbondale businesses one chance for every visit to a local store in a drawing for various prizes, including a cruiser bike and an electric car. The town contributed $30,000 toward prizes and promotion of the campaign.

“[The program] raised community awareness about the importance of supporting local businesses and the concern of retail sales ‘leakage,'” according to the year-end report.

“Since actual 2009 sales tax collections were better than our projections, we have an additional cushion going into 2010,” the report also indicated.

However, “[town trustees] and staff expect that the community is experiencing a structural change in the local economy and that the revenue trends we experienced in 2009 are likely to be the ‘new normal’ for local revenues in the future.”

Last summer and into the fall, the town made a number of budget cuts as a result of the drop in revenues, including laying off four employees, wage cuts and reduced services.

While double-digit sales tax decreases are projected to continue through January and February, the town anticipates single-digit losses through the remainder of the year, and perhaps even some positive sales tax numbers come mid-year.

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