Despite hundreds of Franklin County businesses being forced to close for the past two months, sales tax collections are higher than this time last year.
According to numbers reported last week by the Missouri Department of Revenue, Franklin County collected $1,854,056 in sales taxes for the month of March.
That is an increase of $223,722 over the same time in 2019 when the coronavirus didn’t even exist.
Franklin County has three half-cent sales taxes and two quarter-cent sales taxes which fund roads and bridges, general revenue and law enforcement.
One of the key sales taxes is the half-cent Proposition P sales tax for both law enforcement salaries and the $30 million construction of the new jail.
The first hints of the coronavirus in Franklin County came the week of March 9, and since March 18, restaurants, bars and many other businesses have had restrictions placed on the number of people who can visit at a given time and how they can serve their products.
The average collection of each sales tax fund for the month of March is about $464,000.
Thus far in 2020, Franklin County has collected $10,669,736 in sales taxes across all funds combined, which is $394,196 over this time in 2019.
Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said the county doesn’t know what to think right now, but is optimistic the Franklin County economy will rebound as more restrictions are lifted.
“It’s really a mixed bag,” Brinker said. “Some stores are closed completely and some are having Black Friday days every day.”
The sales tax numbers for April will be released on or about June 10 and will give a more focused picture of sales tax collections during a full month of COVID-19 restrictions.
There are about 500 food service establishments in Franklin County which have been affected by the closures. Many of the non-chain restaurants chose to close completely and others provided curbside, delivery and drive-thru sales only.
This reduction, or complete deletion of sale taxes from those establishments can and will affect the sales tax collections for the county.
“The question is if stores like Lowe’s, Schnucks and Walmart are going to be able to carry it,” Brinker said. “Will it be enough to eclipse the loss from the smaller, or different types of businesses. We are concerned about the small businesses and want to make sure we do all we can to get them back.”
Brinker added unlike neighboring St. Louis County, there are no plans to use any of the $12.1 million in federal CARES money to grant loans to county businesses.
“We (the county) are not a bank,” Brinker said. “We have no desire to become a bank. We can’t put federal dollars in competition with the local lending industry.”
In the first two weeks of county businesses being reopen to some level of normal operation, less than 10 new COVID-19 cases have been reported.
This gives Brinker an optimistic outlook for the bounce back of the county economy this summer.
“People will be out, but whether that equates to spending is another thing,” Brinker said. “People are going to do what they are going to do and the federal, state, county and municipal governments are doing what we can.”