LJWorld.com weblogs Town Talk

Lawrence sales tax totals growing at fastest rate since 1998


I’m surfing my AOL account to try to figure out what has gotten Lawrence consumers so motivated these days. I figure it must be those new Discman portable CD players or maybe the Digimon craze.

What’s that, you say? We’re not in the 1990s anymore? My wife will tell you I have a wardrobe that says otherwise, but a new set of numbers makes it easy to get confused.

New retail sales numbers from Lawrence City Hall, show that sales tax numbers are growing at their fastest pace since 1998.

Through November, Lawrence consumers have tallied $1.25 billion worth of sales in 2012. That’s up from $1.17 billion compared to the same period a year ago. The 6.3 percent growth rate is the best since the carefree days of 1998, when we were preoccupied by a stain on a White House intern’s dress, and two home run sluggers who were proving how healthy eating and a few over-the-counter vitamin supplements could make you a new man. (That was the takeaway from the Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa era, wasn’t it?)

If the growth rate holds up through the end of the year, it will mark the second straight year sales tax numbers have grown significantly. It also will help erase the memories of 2009 and 2010 when consumers ran scared and sales tax numbers posted actual declines for two years in a row. Lawrence City Hall is now on pace to collect $ 2 million more in sales tax revenues than it budgeted.

Here’s a look at how Lawrence’s sales taxes have grown or shrunk over the years:

2011: up 4.5 percent. 2010: down 1.68 percent. 2009: down 2.53 percent. 2008: up 3.57 percent. 2007: up 1.58 percent. 2006: up 3.54 percent. 2005: up 3.52 percent. 2004: up 4.81 percent. 2003: up 1.15 percent. 2002: up 0.46 percent. 2001: up 3.79 percent. 2000: up 1.71 percent. 1999: up 5.17 percent. 1998: up 8.58 percent. 1997: up 6.48 percent 1996: down 0.71 percent

While the growth rate is near an all-time high, folks shouldn’t misinterpret that to mean Lawrence really has gotten its mojo from the 1990s back. Here’s an interesting figure. In that record year of 1998, Lawrence consumers spent $967.4 million. If you adjust that number for inflation, it comes out to $1.37 billion in 2012 dollars. Lawrence this year is on pace to spend a little more than $1.26 billion for the year. Ah, the good old days when home equity still worked like an ATM.

But today’s numbers do show that Lawrence consumers almost have returned to their spending levels prior to the financial crash that happened in late 2008. Here’s a look at actual consumer spending figures for the past five years, with the number in parenthesis showing 2012 inflation-adjusted dollars.

2012 - $1.25 billion. 2011 - $1.17 billion ($1.20). 2010 - $1.12 billion ($1.19). 2009 - $1.14 billion ($1.23). 2008 - $1.17 billion ($1.26).

The November sales tax report also gives us our first glimpse at how holiday sales are shaping up. Due to a delay in reporting times, the November report doesn’t actually represent sales made in November. Instead, it shows sales from mid-September to mid-October, which is holiday shopping season for those organized people who make you want to throw up.

Sales in the November 2012 period were up 8.9 percent from the same period a year ago. If that trend continues, retailers will be happy, and those of us unwrapping holiday gifts may be happy too. Maybe I’ll finally get that Macarena mix tape. Oops, sorry, wrong year again.


lunacydetector 5 years, 5 months ago

it's too bad gasoline prices and groceries aren't used when determining inflation. i wonder how much of the increase is attributed to the huge increase in groceries and gas prices?

Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 5 months ago

I don't believe a sales tax is charged on gasoline. An excise tax is charged. The excise tax numbers don't show up in these reports. That is a separate pool of money. Higher grocery prices would, though. Thanks, Chad.

Catalano 5 years, 5 months ago

Hey...maybe you can pull out Jere McElhey's old food price study and do a current-day comparison. I think one of the items was a banana. That was a classic.

lunacydetector 5 years, 5 months ago

you are correct about the gasoline.

as for groceries, last i looked, a gallon of generic chocolate milk went from $3.99 a gallon to $5.25 a gallon in the past year/year in a half at some stores, just as an example....which also increased the sales tax 11 cents on just 1 item.

gccs14r 5 years, 5 months ago

Now that online retailers are starting to charge local sales tax, the benefits of buying online are fading. As long as the local list price for an item is within a few percent of its online price, it's worth it to buy locally and take it home the same day, rather than have to wait for a truck.

absolutelyridiculous 5 years, 5 months ago

That's great! Someone please let Marci Fransisco know that she can quit worrying about $2 million in lost tax revenue from sales tax of groceries. Let's give the working poor a break from our good fortune.

Catalano 5 years, 5 months ago

Again, it was the CITY that was worried the state legislature might remove the sales tax from food and groceries. Get your facts straight.

gccs14r 5 years, 5 months ago

The 3.1oz bars are personal size, not bath size.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.