Soaring sales tax receipts continue for Garland County
The 2019 law requiring out-of-state internet retailers and e-commerce facilitators to collect and remit local sales taxes sparked a revenue bonanza for Garland County, one that continues to generate record receipts.
The 0.50% sales tax the county levies in support of its general and solid waste funds collected $13.19 million last year, according to a report provided earlier this month to the Garland County Quorum Court Finance Committee. The total exceeded 2021 collections by almost $900,000, or 7.20%, and 2020 by almost $2.5 million, or 23.10%. It beat the county’s revenue forecast by almost $6 million, or 83%.
“Each year I say there’s no way next year can be better than this year was, and each year it has continued to produce more,” County Judge Darryl Mahoney told the committee Monday. “It’s got us in a very good position, financially.”
Mahoney remembers when county finances weren’t as sound.
“I can remember telling department heads and elected officials to go back and reduce their budgets by 10%,” Mahoney, recounting a budget meeting from his time as a justice of the peace in the 2000s. “Ten percent is huge.”
New revenue sources have come online since then. Voters approved a 0.375% countywide sales tax to operate and maintain the county detention center, saving millions of dollars in general fund money that had supported the jail.
They’ve also approved three 0.625% sales taxes. The latest supports the repair and replacement of existing roads and bridges in the more than 1,000-mile network the county and city of Hot Springs collectively maintain, according to the ballot title voters narrowly approved last February in a low-turnout election.
The county reported its per capita share of collections from July through December totaled $5.17 million.
The expansion of the county’s sales tax regime, coupled with the expansion of local taxing authority to online commerce, gave the county the means to capture a larger share of its jurisdiction’s economic growth, which Mahoney said has been brisk.
“Our sales tax is doing remarkably well,” he told the committee. “Part of that can be attributed to inflation. The other part is everything here is just on fire. It’s holding up well.”
Federal largesse bolstered county revenues the previous three years, with the county receiving more than $19 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds from spring 2021 to last spring. The quorum court appropriated $10 million of ARPA money for the county general fund last summer, reimbursing the general fund for salaries and benefits it incurred from March 2021 through July of last year.
Mahoney said revenue growth has been accompanied by fiscal restraint. Information
presented Monday showed general fund-supported departments last year spent $2.34 million less than the fund’s $23.44 million amended budget.
“It caused our fund balance to grow,” Mahoney told the committee. “It’s not recurring revenue we’re assured of, but we were all under budget. A very impressive group of departments this year in operating under budget.”
The inability to purchase 2022 budget items contributed to the fund balance. An ordinance the committee advanced Monday reappropriated $1.3 million from 2022 into 2023 budgets. It included $909,506 from the general fund to purchase body worn cameras and in-car video systems that had been on back-order for the sheriff’s department and $275,936 from the solid waste fund for a compactor that had been on back-order for the landfill.
“This is a cleanup, rolling funding forward for stuff we couldn’t purchase, items that were not available,” Mahoney told the committee. “Some of it’s going to be the second year that we’re moving forward.”