El Campo’s economic strength continues to show a 31 percent jump in the state March sales tax rebate.

The $422,588 check from the state comptroller’s office reflects the city’s share of sales taxes paid in January. Last month, the rebate was up slightly more than 41 percent while January saw a 19.1 percent hike.

“While the gain was not the same as the previous month, a 31 percent gain in sales tax from the same period of the prior year is something staff was excited to see,” El Campo City Manager Courtney Sladek said, adding returns have shown more than the strength of big box store buying. “Notably, we’ve continued to watch Amazon creep up our top 25 taxpayers’ (list).”

For the calendar year, sales tax rebates are up 31.36 percent or slightly less than $330,000 with $1,381,368 received in all.

The rebate is the city’s largest funding source, a voluntary tax paid via purchases in El Campo’s businesses.

The higher sales tax returns come in, the less the city has to rely on property tax, the key reason for the sustained Shop LOCAL! drive of the City Development Corporation of El Campo in cooperation with the city, chamber and El Campo Leader-News.

“We budgeted the same amount of sales tax as last year because, at budget time, we were just beginning to take on the pandemic. We could not have predicted that sales tax would climb like it has, and we are fortunate now to have a source of revenue that we can turn to,” Sladek said, adding excess funds may be used for hazardous mitigation needs uncovered during last month’s freeze.

The city is discussing the need for generators at multiple sites to help ensure continued municipal services during prolonged power outages.

It’s a wait-and-see, however, on how much funding will be available.

“We’ll remain optimistic while being conservative with these estimates as we approach the fiscal year 2022 budget cycle. The bottom line is that sales tax, as an economic indicator for our community, has demonstrated the resiliency and strength of our local economy,” Sladek said.

In 2020, El Campo sales tax rebates were up 6.94 percent from 2019. The last year that ended with a city sales tax loss was 2016, when collections were down 3.41 percent.

 

County Reports

 

Wharton County’s sales tax rebate blasted upward 77.18 percent in what is either stunning in comparison to March 2020, or may simply be a comptroller’s adjustment of previous data. As of presstime, no information on which was available, but either is good news.

The county received a $387,446 rebate check in March. For the calendar year, slightly more than $1 million has been collected, a 34.65 percent jump from 2020.

The county finished 2020 up 3.73 percent. The year 2019 was stagnant, up just 0.61 percent.

The city of Wharton’s $190,312 return was 21.38 percent higher than this month last year. The city’s returns are up 16.09 percent so far in 2021 with $653,786 in the bank.

Wharton ended 2020 with sales tax rebates down 0.29 percent in comparison to 2019.

East Bernard’s $37,624 check was within $5,000 of its 2020 rebate. So far this calendar year, the city has received $119,977 from the comptroller’s office, down 7.57 percent from the first quarter of 2020.

By the end of last year, the small community’s return was up 7.17 percent. The city recorded a 13.55 percent jump in 2019.

Statewide, sales tax returns were almost stagnant, down .5 percent from rebates made in March 2020.

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