If the numbers are accurate, DeKalb County had record sales tax collections in July, up over 40% from the same month last year.
County Mayor Mike Foster said Monday that the latest report from the state shows that DeKalb County is due to receive $384-thousand 842 in local option sales tax collections. Foster says that's the largest in the history of the county.
But Henry Bowman, Senior analyst for the Upper Cumberland Development District doubts that DeKalb County had a 40% growth when the Upper Cumberland Region and the state continue to suffer from the economy. "DeKalb County showed a 40.2% increase this July compared to July, 2008 whereas the region, as a whole, was down 2.4% and the State of Tennessee was down 8.2%. I suspect there's some sort of one time anomaly that got worked into that. I don't have anyway of knowing what it is or what caused it, if it's a one time thing, or some sort of recurring thing. But we'll know when the next report comes out. I have results of the state sales tax only (not local option sales tax). That's the way I do it (analyze it) because the state sales tax is uniform throughout the state. Every county has the same rate. If you get into local sales tax you get into variations that make comparisons difficult. DeKalb shows $1-million 135 thousand dollars in August of this year (July collections) compared to $809 thousand dollars a year prior and that's where the 40.2% increase comes in. But if you look for the full twelve months, which is something I also do, for the twelve months ending in August, the increase for DeKalb County over the corresponding period a year ago was only 0.3% so that makes me suspect that there's something out of whack with the August monthly number. The most promising thing I see about this particular report is the fact that our regional numbers are not down as much as the state. The state's numbers are down 8.2% and ours (Upper Cumberland) are down by just 2.4% so that's sort of encouraging in a kind of back hand way. It seems to be that the numbers are getting less worse as we go on. We're going to expect the deterioration to lessen because we're working off of a lower base than we have in the past."
In May 2007, DeKalb County voters passed a referendum increasing the local option sales tax rate locally from 1.5% to 2.75%. Foster says that move alone has helped local coffers. "We started keeping up with the sales tax figures in 2006-07 and in July of that year the money we received was $173-thousand 154. The money was collected two months prior in May. The money we received last year, in July 2008, was $340-thousand 838 dollars (collected in May). This year, it was $348-thousand 993 dollars in July (collected in May). The biggest month we've ever had in the history of DeKalb County was July, 2009 at $384-thousand 842 dollars which is reflected in the August report from the state. We haven't received the money for this yet. The report has just come. I think a lot of it has to do with tourism and people are probably buying more at home, spending money here rather than taking it to another county, and the Jamboree probably contributes to it."
DeKalb County's unemployment rate for August held steady at 10.7% and while that is still too high, Bowman admits that it is better than most in the Upper Cumberland. In fact, he says the only county that had a better jobless rate in August among the fourteen county region was Putnam, at 10.4%. Still DeKalb County's rate is much higher than a year ago."When we look at a year ago, in August 2008, the DeKalb jobless rate was only 6.8%, but that is pretty typical. Every county is up dramatically in that time period. For the region as a whole, the rate was 12.2% and for the state as a whole it was 10.8%. So in that regard DeKalb County is doing rather well. Our (regions) highest unemployment rate for August was 14.5% in Jackson and White counties. You're (DeKalb) doing somewhat better. The national recession has affected all of us. It's just a matter of time before we overcome all that, I just don't know when that will be but things don't seem to be deteriorating as badly as they have been."
County Mayor Foster says while the local jobless rate remains high, he is hopeful for better days ahead for DeKalb County. "Some of the industries that we have been going around talking to are even seeing maybe a little increase. They're hiring some extra people. One of them has put in for a contract and if they get it, they may get 112 new jobs even above what they have been having. We'll probably know about that in December. We've got some factories and industries that have been here a long, long time. They were healthy going into this (recession) and maybe had some fund balances built up and still maintain quite a bit of their business. We've got some business that have been here for twenty five years and I think they are able to withstand that better with their after market products that go out but we still have some factories where their orders are down some while we have some that are picking up really well.'