At $2.71 million, sales tax revenues to the Haines Borough in 2012 matched those of 2011, according to figures compiled recently by the municipality.
Borough manager Mark Earnest had projected an increase of 1.5 percent in tax revenues when budgeting last year, an additional $48,000 in income “due largely to projected increased fuel prices.”
“It doesn’t look like we’re going to make that,” Jila Stuart, the borough’s chief fiscal officer, said in an interview. “In that sense, it’s a little bit of a surprise.”
However, the borough’s numbers may adjust upward. An increase of 1 percent in sales tax revenues between 2010 and 2011 reported in April 2012 was later estimated to be an increase of 3 percent. “We had some (accounts) that were behind a little bit. Almost always it’s lower than it is one year (later),” Stuart said. “But you can definitely say it’s down.”
Last year’s increase of 3 percent compares to a 2 percent increase in 2011 over 2010, according to the borough.
The cause of the apparent change this year was unclear. Former Haines Chamber of Commerce president Ned Rozbicki said in April 2012 that he believed that 1 percent increase in 2011 was due to a Klukwan, Inc. dividend and increased fuel costs.
To protect confidential sales information of individual businesses, the borough categorizes its sources of sales tax in aggregate. Categories include: “retail,” “services,” “eating and drinking,” “lodging,” “construction” and “other.”
About half of sales tax revenues boroughwide fall in the retail category, including groceries, liquor, hardware, fuel, and “all other storefronts.” That category – with revenues of $1.28 million in 2012 – saw increases of 2 percent and 5 percent in the past two years, respectively, but a 0 percent change this year.
Fuel distributor Fred Gray said this week he couldn’t easily say if fuel prices were steady through 2012. Gas station operator Paul Nelson said unleaded prices he charges started 2011 at $4.51, then climbed as high as $4.86 in April before bouncing downward and returning to $4.51 in December.
The cost of fuel to stations is typically highest in summer, then drops in winter. Also, motorists tend to buy less when the price spikes, Nelson said.
According to borough records, changes in revenue from 2011 include a 3 percent increase in “services,” defined as “auto repair, utilities, professional services and personal services” (to $443,059) a 2 percent increase in tourism-related sales (to $380,244) and an 8 percent drop in revenues from restaurants and bars (to $259,857). Stuart said the latter drop may be misleading.
“Restaurants and bars tend to be late in filing, so I’m pretty sure that number will go up a little bit, once these delinquent returns come in,” Stuart said. Fort Seward restaurateur Lisa Loberg said her sales tax receipts in 2012 climbed 19 percent over the previous year. “Each year we do a little better,” Loberg said.
Other borough numbers show a 1 percent increase in lodging sales (to $268,539), a 2 percent increase in construction (to $59,339) and a 30 percent drop in “other sales” to $20,294. “Other sales” include manufacturing, animal husbandry and agriculture, Stuart said.
Mike Ward, owner of a Main Street grocery store and restaurant, said the borough’s figures seem about right. “I’d say that’s generally accurate. We had a slight increase in retail, 1 or 2 percent maybe, but I don’t know if we kept up with inflation. Retail frankly has been flat for the past 10 years.”
Ward closed his restaurant for remodeling in November. He said sales figures there through October were flat compared to the same months in 2011.