J. H. Osborne • Jan 4, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Sales tax revenues in Sullivan County are running about 1.6 percent below last year at this point, according to figures released by the county’s budget office Friday.

A five-month spreadsheet prepared by that office shows August sales tax revenues were about 1.2 percent less this year than in 2006. The figures for September and October show decreases of about 3 percent and 3.73 percent, respectively.

In November, the numbers rebounded somewhat.

Sales tax revenues sent back to the county and its cities in November were up almost 1 percent, for the month, compared to the same period a year ago.

But in December, receipts again failed to meet the same level as the previous year, coming in about $29,100 less than in December 2006.

Overall, sales tax revenues for the five-month period are about $299,100 — or about 1.59 percent — less than the same five-month period a year ago.

The drop follows the exit of Sam’s Wholesale Club from Kingsport’s retail lineup.

There’s no doubt that contributed to the drop, Sullivan County Accounts and Budgets Director Larry Bailey said last month.

But he and other county officials remain hopeful the loss will be offset soon by the recent openings of Kohl’s, Target and multiple others retailers at the Kingsport Pavilion development on Stone Drive; a second Kingsport Lowe’s on the city’s west end; and the recent reopening of Food City and other businesses at Crown Point on Eastman Road.

“Most of those businesses were just beginning to open in October,” Bailey said Friday. “January (receipts from the state) will be a better barometer because that’ll reflect sales tax collections for November. And December (sales) may be an even better reflection of the new businesses being opened.”

“The sales tax revenue we receive in November is for sales in the month of September,” Bailey said. “So we haven’t yet seen the growth that’s likely to come from all the new and expanded retail businesses in Kingsport.”

Sales tax revenues are generated when money is spent on goods and services at businesses throughout the county and its cities. The money is used by local governments, largely, to support school systems.

When a consumer pays sales tax locally, it is sent to the state, which redistributes it back to the county and its cities based on collection site.

Sales tax revenue is typically distributed back to localities two months after being collected.

Taxes collected during October, for example, come back to the localities in December.

Local-option sales tax revenues are split 50/50 — with half going to school systems in the county, and the other half going to the local government where the collecting business is located.

Each $1 of local-option sales taxes collected in Kingsport, for example, generates 50 cents for the county’s three school systems (the money is split based on average daily attendance) and 50 cents for city coffers.

Since August, sales tax revenues from non-city portions of the county are up about 9.1 percent — about $114,600 — compared to this time last year.

Sullivan County’s Highway Department receives most of the county’s revenue from sales taxes collected outside the cities.

Sales tax revenues within the city of Bristol are up since August, as well, by about 2 percent, or about $42,125.

Also provided by the report:

• Sales tax revenues received by local governments in Sullivan County during the five months totaled more than $18.55 million.

That’s down from more than $18.85 million for the same period last year.

• For the same period in 2006, the state sent about $11.83 million total back for sales taxes collected within the city of Kingsport — with half, or more than $5.9 million — going to the city of Kingsport’s coffers and the other half being split among local school systems.

• This year the Kingsport total for the period was about $11.26 million, with half, or roughly $5.63 million going to city coffers, and the other half going to the school systems.

• Kingsport’s year-to-date share, since fiscal year 2008 began on July 1, shows a total decrease of $284,110 — or about 4.8 percent — compared to last year at this point.

• The Sullivan County school system’s year-to-date share is nearly $5.14 million, down about $149,000 compared to this point last year, a decrease of 2.8 percent.

• The Bristol City Schools system’s year-to-date share is about $1.64 million, a drop of about $2,800 compared to this point last year.

• The Kingsport City Schools system’s year-to-date share is about $2.5 million, down about $2,100 compared to this point last year.

• The city of Bristol’s year-to-date share is about $2.1 million, up about $42,125 compared to this point last year — a growth of 2 percent.

• Bluff City’s year-to-date share is about $144,000, down about $13,000 compared to this point last year.

Fiscal year 2008 began July 1 and covers the county’s finances — and that of other local governments — through June 30, 2008.

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