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Sales tax revenues up across Sullivan County despite pandemic

BLOUNTVILLE — Doom and gloom fears over COVID-19’s potential negative impact on local options sales tax revenues didn’t come true, based on the latest numbers for Sullivan County. In fact, sales tax revenues for the past eight months are up 6.7% compared to the same period a year before.

That 6.7% equals growth of $2,634,782 into county and city coffers.

It’s especially important because this report will be the one county officials use as they move forward with development of a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Even if they decide to conservatively base the budget on no growth and simply use this year’s figures, it means starting with more money compared to what was budgeted for this year.

And revenue generated by businesses outside cities in Sullivan County is up nearly 18% for the period, according to a report produced by the county’s accounts and budgets office.

Countywide, sales tax revenues returned to Sullivan County and its cities in March (collected by merchants in January) were up 16% and totaled $5,026,104 — compared to $4,331,402 in March 2020 (for sales taxes collected in January 2020).

County officials credit online purchases with creating some of the growth over the eight-month period. They also theorize growth in sales tax revenues in areas outside the cities reflects behavioral changes during the pandemic, as shoppers perhaps worked from home — and therefore shopped closer to home (or ordered online).

Kingsport continues to produce the largest chunk of sales taxes generated within the county, but Bristol and areas outside any city experienced larger growth, year over year, for this monthly report.

For March

Sales in Kingsport contributed $2,877,976 of the $5,026,104 countywide total for March. Sales in Bristol contributed $1,247,586 of the countywide total. Sales in areas outside any city in the county contributed $756,974 of the $5,026,104 countywide total. And sales taxes collected in the portion of Johnson City that is within Sullivan County contributed $88,334 of the $5.02 million countywide total, while $55,234 came from collections inside Bluff City.

Where does it go?

Half of the money goes to local school systems:

• The Kingsport City Schools system’s year-to-date share is $7.29 million, up $571,537 (8.5%) compared to this point last year.

• The Bristol, Tennessee, City Schools system’s year-to-date-share is $4.18 million, up $195,430 (4.9%) compared to this point last year.

• The Sullivan County Schools system’s year-to-date share is nearly $9.52 million, up $531,233 (5.9%) compared to this point last year.

• The Johnson City Schools system’s year-to-date share is $346,363, up $19,192 (24.7%).

Sullivan County’s non-school year-to-date share is nearly $3.49 million, up $507,838 (17.9%) compared to this point last year. That has the potential for the greatest impact on the county’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The county dedicates the first $2.5 million of its annual sales tax revenues to the Sullivan County Highway Department. Anything over that amount goes to support the county’s general fund.

Sales saxes 101

Sales tax revenues come back to the localities two months after they are collected by local merchants. June sales tax collections, for example, came back as revenue to Sullivan County, Kingsport, Bristol, Bluff City and Johnson City — as well as to the three school systems in the county — in August.

Sales tax revenues are generated when money is spent on goods and services at businesses throughout the county and its cities.

Locally, cities and counties fund most of their services through a combination of property and sales taxes. When a consumer pays sales tax locally, that money is sent to the state, which takes a small cut and redistributes it to the county and its cities based on the collection site.

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.

Every dollar 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.

The Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen held its first official meeting in the new city hall Monday afternoon. Its new meeting space is located on the third floor of the six floor building. All seven members of the BMA were in attendance.

Kingsport's new city hall is located at 415 Broad St., once home to Regions Bank.

During regular meetings of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen (the first and third Tuesday's of the month), elected officials and the city manager will sit in these chairs.

March home sales hit six-month high

GRAY — March home sales hit a six-month high while the average price in the inventory-starved region soared 23.2%, according to a report from the Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors.

“March was another month of record-level sales and price increases,” NETAR President Kristi Bailey said. “The caveat to interpreting the sales numbers is March’s hot market is being compared to March last year when the first uncertainties of COVID-19 were beginning to have an effect.

“The surge that began during the last half of 2020 continued increasing through the first quarter of this year. The market has evolved to one where multiple offers are becoming more common, and buyer competition is increasing. The average sale was $43,230 more than it was in March last year. Homes are also selling faster than ever before, and for the first time there were fewer than 1,000 existing homes for sale at month’s end.”

There were 828 closings last month — 204 more than last year, according to the NETAR’s report.

The average resale price was $229,499. It was $186,269 this time last year. The median sales price of $185,000 was $20,875 more than last year. The median is the market’s center point, where half of the sales were for $185,000 or more and the other half for less.

Inventory dropped to an all-time low last month. There were 991 active listings.

“This time last year, we had 2,257 homes listed for sale,” Bailey said.

The region had a 1.3-month supply of homes for sale last month, while half of the local submarkets monitored for the quarterly market study had less than a month’s inventory.Those submarkets include Johnson City, Jonesborough, Elizabethton, Erwin, Church Hill and Piney Flats.

Homes are also selling at the fastest-ever pace. The median time a sale that closed in March was on the market was 53 days. That means that half of the homes were sold almost a month quicker than this time last year.

There were 905 new listings in March and 983 pending sales.

Last month’s average listing price was $321,168, up 19.8% from last year, and the median listing price was $197,900, up 3.1% from last year.

For more go to www.netar.us.

Ballad's COVID-19 hospitalizations reach highest point since Feb. 3

For the first time in nearly two months, Ballad Health was treating more than 100 people hospitalized with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on Monday, worrying hospital officials and prompting renewed concerns about the impact another increase in hospitalizations will have on health care workers who’ve battled the virus for more than a year now.

“It’s really hard on the team,” Ballad’s Chief Infection Preven- tion Officer Jamie Swift said. “They’ve come through this, they now know what could lie ahead and that’s really disheartening and that’s hard for a lot of them.”

Ballad’s Chief Operating Officer Eric Deaton said the system’s in-house modeling shows a potential surge to more than 150-160 hospitalizations if current trends continue.

“It was very alarming that we were back over 100 patients again through this weekend,” Deaton said. “We believe that, if you look at the forecast modeling that our team has been doing here, that we could be back over 150 to 160 inpatients again within a matter of time, so that’s obviously very concerning.

“That does not get us back to the 370 or so patients we were at at one time, but we could see that increase and, again, this continued stress it puts on our health care system is very difficult,” he continued.

Deaton also said the rise in cases and hospitalizations is likely due to an increase in the circulation of virus variants, as well as spring break travel and fewer people following virus prevention guidance. Across the hospital system’s 21-county service area, new cases have increased week over week in each of the past four weeks.

“Our (Corporate Emergency Operations Center) was set up 400 days ago today,” Deaton said, later noting that there are some “very active strains” circulating in the region. “We still, unfortunately, have a fairly high rate of COVID-19 across our region.”

Swift encouraged people to receive vaccines to prevent another surge in hospitalizations, as the vaccines are extremely effective at preventing severe illness from COVID-19.

“If people will really see the numbers and think — even if you were thinking before, ‘I don’t need to get vaccinated’ — just get vaccinated for our community. We have appointments available this week, and I will be glad to help you if you have had trouble getting an appointment,” Swift said.

NET by the Numbers

Cases: 53,357 (+72). Past seven days: 762

New cases by county: Carter 13, Greene 15, Hancock 0, Hawkins 3, Johnson 0, Sullivan 16, Unicoi 2, Washington 23.

Active cases: 1,280 (+1)

Active cases by county: Carter 124, Greene 131, Hancock 8, Hawkins 111, Johnson 17, Sullivan 473, Unicoi 25, Washington 391.

New tests: 366 (16.12% positivity rate)

New hospitalizations: 0. Past seven days: 20

Deaths: 1,030. Past seven days: 5

TEnnessee by the Numbers

Cases: 817,022 (+523)

New tests: 8,357 (5.13% positivity)

Deaths: 11,929 (+7)

Active cases: 13,007

Current hospitalizations: 810 (-11)

Ballad Health Scorecard

COVID-19 inpatients: 109

Patients under investigation: 1

Admissions: 28

Discharges: 14

Patients in intensive care: 37

Patients on a ventilator: 15

Designated beds available: 25

First-dose vaccines administered: 39,142

Second-dose vaccines administered: 32,144

Ballad has a 21-county service area in Tennessee and Virginia. Ballad issues scorecards on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

A Justified Automated Collections Kiosk — or JACK — is located in the drive-thru window of city hall. Residents will be able to use the kiosk to make various fee and service payments to the city.