Dougherty sales tax collections down 10% - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Dougherty sales tax collections down 10%

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  Many of you are cutting your spending, and that's hurting local governments that depend on sales tax revenue.

Revenues are down 10% this year, on top of a nearly 13%  decrease last year.

Sales taxes provide the second largest chunk of Albany's revenue. When you shop in Dougherty County, you pay sales tax on most of the items you buy, but many people aren't buying as much as they once did.

"The recovery has not yet begun as far as our sales tax indicates, as far as people buying things," said Albany Finance Director Kris Newton.

And economists have told city and county leaders they don't expect a turnaround until mid 2011. "It's going to be tight.  It's going to be interesting, but it's not dire," said Newton.

Not dire because even though the city of Albany may lose another million In sales taxes, it has millions in the bank.

"If there was ever a rainy day this is it and so we'll tap that if we need it."

Dougherty County may also need to tap into its reserve funds, but finance director Karen Goff says she'll work hard to avoid that, and rather align the budget expenditures with actual revenues. "We'll be looking for more cuts in our expenditures to balance out the revenues."

While sales taxes may not be coming in as strong as the county would like, they aren't as weak as this time last year.

"I'm seeing an up tick from where we were earlier in 2009.  January of 2009 was really bad.  I think it's improving a little bit from where we were," Goff said.

Because both the city and county have strong cash reserves and have cut back on spending and left vacant positions unfilled, you won't have to go without the services you depend on.

"There will still be a policeman who comes when you call, there will still be a fireman who comes when he's needed.  Trash will still be picked up and the streets will be repaired."

And hopefully the economy will be repaired soon as well.  The decrease may also force the city and county to put off projects that were supposed to be paid for with local option sales tax money.

Both governments will get a little unexpected boost from the state.  The Attorney General just ruled the state must return $18 Million in disputed sales tax money to local governments.

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