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Retail sales for holiday period in Lawrence up 5 percent; an update on rental licensing proposal

The number of the day is $125 million. No, it only seems like the price of a dozen roses for those of us just now remembering that today is Valentine's Day.

Instead, a new state report indicates $125 million is the amount of taxable sales that occurred in Lawrence during the heart of the Christmas shopping season. That means Lawrence retailers had a pretty fair Christmas season

The latest sales tax report measures sales for the period of mid-November to mid-December. The $125 million in sales is up about 5 percent from the same period a year ago.

The $125 million does capture some spending that is not what you would call traditional holiday retail spending. For instance it includes the sales tax you pay on your utility bills. (Although, that's kind of holiday related. Christmas is the one day of the year my wife lets the kids and me turn the thermostat up to 65 degrees.) But the majority of the $125 million are retail sales — everything from purchases at the grocery store to the jewelry store.

While a 5 percent increase for the season is solid, it is not spectacular. Over the previous three holiday seasons, the average increase has been 6.4 percent. If retailers feel like this year didn't quite have the same zing as past seasons, that may be what they're feeling. In fact, over the last six seasons, sales during the holiday period have grown by more than 6 percent every year but one. That one year, however, was a doozy. At the end of 2009, holiday shoppers clamped onto their wallets like my kids clamp onto their Valentine's Day candy stashes. Taxable sales for the season fell 13.2 percent. So, that makes 5 percent look a little better.

Here's a look at how Lawrence's totals stacked up with some other large retail markets across the state:

• Dodge City: down 8.5 percent

• Emporia: up 4.8 percent

• Garden City: down 5.5 percent

• Hays: down 27.7 percent

• Hutchinson: down 4.6 percent

• Junction City: down 0.4 percent

• Kansas City: up 2 percent

• Leawood: up 5.2 percent

• Lenexa: up 4.4 percent

• Manhattan: up 0.9 percent

• Olathe: up 0.1 percent

• Ottawa: up 1.3 percent

• Overland Park: up 1.3 percent

• City of Shawnee: up 4 percent

• Topeka: down 0.6 percent

• Sedgwick County: up 1.5 percent

These numbers are just for a one-month period, so you should use caution in interpreting them. But it appears shoppers in many locations slowed down this holiday season. Lawrence retailers may have reason to feel lucky as 2014 gets underway.

Which is more than I can say about myself, if my banker doesn't lend me money for some roses by the end of the day.

In other news and notes from around town:

• Look for March to be a key month to determine the fate of the city's proposed rental licensing and inspection program. The program, which would expand the city's limited inspection program to all rental units in the city, has been on hold since Commissioner Jeremy Farmer in late January said he wasn't ready to vote on the program.

Farmer said he wanted more data about how the city's current rental inspection program, which covers only rental units in single-family neighborhoods, has performed. The data from the city should be available soon, and Farmer said he then anticipates hosting a public forum to discuss the program in early March.

At that forum, Farmer hopes to have a compromise plan to talk about. He confirmed this week that he's been talking with both supporters and opponents of a rental licensing and inspection program. Details of a possible compromise are a bit sparse at the moment, but Farmer previously has said he had some interest in removing some violations that aren't related to life and safety from the inspection list. For example, rotting siding or an overgrown yard may not produce a violation that would prohibit a landlord from getting a rental license for a property. But inspectors would still note those violations of the city's code and could take appropriate enforcement action. The main difference is that the city couldn't deny a landlord a license over such violations. That's important because in the future landlords will have to have a license for every unit they intend to rent.

Again, Farmer hasn't released the details of the compromise yet, so we'll see if that is the path it is still on. Farmer, though, did make it clear that he is intent on passing a licensing and inspection program.

"This public meeting that we'll have will not be to talk about whether rental registration is a good idea or not," Farmer said. "We're way past that point."

"I don't think we are too far away from a really, really good compromise, though," Farmer said.

Farmer said he hopes to be ready to vote on the issue "in the next month."

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    Downtown ice rink possible; city’s retail sales fall for third time in four months

    Here in another couple of months, my household will be in full Winter Olympics mode. That will mean several things: Jokes about communists (the games are in Russia this year); spontaneous performances of the Olympic theme song, complete with cymbals, by my wife; and whether I like it or not, figure skating on the TV.

    Perhaps in the future, though, we can get our ice skating fix locally. I've gotten wind of an ice skating idea that is percolating at Lawrence City Hall. Folks in the parks and recreation department are exploring the feasibility of a seasonal, outdoor ice rink in downtown Lawrence.

    Mark Hecker, assistant director for parks and recreation, told me several areas are getting a look. They include an area near the Outdoor Aquatics Center and part of South Park. But the most intriguing location is the plaza area that will exist between the city's new parking garage and the expanded Lawrence Public Library once it's completed next year.

    The idea has some momentum at City Hall, in part because City Manager David Corliss is intrigued by it. He said he's interested in finding a way to bring more people to downtown Lawrence in winter. The idea of placing a temporary rink in the plaza area has some synergies, he said, because there would be adequate parking in the adjacent garage, restrooms are available in the new garage, and nonskaters could easily find something to do in the library or make the quick walk over to Massachusetts Street.

    Whether the plaza area will be big enough to accommodate a rink isn't known. The financial feasibility of all this is also a question. To be clear, city officials aren't thinking of simply flooding an area and waiting for it to freeze. They do that occasionally in a low lying area of Watson Park, but it usually is only worth the time if there is going to be three to four weeks of freezing weather.

    Instead, city officials are exploring renting a portable ice rink that comes with the appropriate ice making equipment. The financial feasibility of the idea likely will involve finding a corporate sponsor, and also charging a fee for skaters. Obviously, Crown Center in Kansas City has done well for years with its rink. Even for people who don't skate, it seems to add to the area's reputation as a holiday shopping destination.

    That's certainly behind some of the thinking at Lawrence City Hall.

    "We like the idea of a Winter Wonderland type of concept in the downtown core," Hecker said.

    It's far from a done deal, but city officials seem to be serious about exploring the concept.

    If it comes to be, I know somebody who can provide the theme music.

    In other news and notes from around town:

    • There is something else that is slipping and sliding just a bit in Lawrence: Retail sales numbers. The latest city sales tax report shows that taxable sales in the city fell by about 7.5 percent during the most recent reporting period. Totals for the entire year are still decent, but this does mark the third month out of the last four that the city has registered a decline in taxable sales in the city.

    The most recent report details the taxes the city received from the state's Department of Revenue in November, but due to a lag in reporting and processing, it really measures sales that occurred from mid-September to mid-October. So, it appears really early-bird Christmas shoppers weren't out in full force, and, let's face it, Jayhawk football fans weren't roaming the city in the numbers they used to either. I never put too much stock in one month's worth of numbers, but the 7.5 percent decline is fairly significant.

    For the year, sales tax collections are up about 1.6 percent. It's worth remembering that 2012 was a strong year for retail sales locally, so the fact we're above last years totals is encouraging. But, it also is worth noting that Lawrence in 2013 is performing worse than the state as a whole when it comes to retail sales. The statewide growth rate for taxable sales is 2.6 percent so far in 2013.

    Lawrence isn't alone. It has been a mixed bag for several of the larger retail communities in the state. Here's a look at some of the winners and losers:

    — Dodge City: up 1.6 percent

    — Emporia: up 2.5 percent

    — Garden City: up 5.2 percent

    — Hays: down 12.3 percent

    — Hutchinson: up 3.2 percent

    — Junction City: down 1.0 percent

    — Kansas City: up 5.1 percent

    — Leavenworth: up 4.1 percent

    — Leawood: up 0.9 percent

    — Lenexa: up 5.2 percent

    — Manhattan: down 1.2 percent

    — Olathe: up 3.4 percent

    — Ottawa: up 4.5 percent

    — Overland Park: up 1.8 percent

    — Salina: up 1.4 percent

    — Shawnee: up 3.4 percent

    — Topeka: up 0.4 percent

    — Sedgwick County: up 2.3 percent.

    • It was a late night at the Lawrence City Commission meeting on Tuesday, so news of the commission's discussion on a pay raise for commissioners got a little bit short-changed in our coverage. As we reported, staff members were directed to create an ordinance that would bump the annual commission salary to $20,000, up from $9,000 today. The mayor would get a bump to $25,000, up from $10,000 today.

    The proposal, however, is a bit different than some had envisioned. Previously, there was a thought that none of the pay increases would take effect until after a new commissioner had been elected or an existing commissioner had been re-elected. In other words, no one would be guaranteeing themselves a pay increase.

    But Commissioners Terry Riordan and Bob Schumm lobbied for a slightly different idea. The new proposal is that the pay increase would go into effect for all five commissioners after the April 2015 election. Three of the five seats — those held by Schumm, Riordan, and Mike Dever — are up for election in 2015. Mike Amyx and Jeremy Farmer's seats aren't up until 2017. Riordan said it wouldn't be fair for some commissioners to be making $20,000 while others are making only $9,000.

    Ultimately, Dever sided with Riordan and Schumm to move the proposal forward. Amyx and Farmer abstained from the vote because they did not want to be in a position of voting for a proposal that would guarantee themselves a pay increase.

    None of this is official yet. Commissioners still will have to vote on the actual ordinance that increases the pay. That vote likely will happen sometime in January. As for the concept of city commissioners getting paid more, it was widely accepted at Tuesday's meeting. Two members of the public spoke in favor of it. None spoke against it.

    Although there was a city survey that showed Lawrence's proposed salaries would make Lawrence among the higher paying in the area, Riordan said he thought the survey results mainly showed that commissioners in other communities are "grossly underpaid."

    Probably the most interesting item of the discussion is that one member of the public commented that if City Hall wants to do something to encourage more people to run, it should place some limits on campaign spending for City Commission races.

    Commissioners didn't take any action on that idea, but Riordan said he was intrigued by it.

    "That may be worth looking at, at some point," Reardon said. "That probably would affect it more than anything else."

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  • Reply 7 comments from Barbaragordon Merrill Wayne Kerr Kingfisher Jhwkdoc1964 Eddie Muñoz Frankie8 Terrylee

    Lawrence retail sales still up for the year, but latest report raises questions of a slowdown

    You’ll have to decide whether you are in a glass-half-full or a glass-half-empty mood today. A new report from Lawrence City Hall on the city’s retail marketplace could leave you feeling either way.

    First, the good news: Retail sales are still tracking above 2012 totals. Retail sales tax collections are up nearly 1.7 percent compared to the same time last year.

    This month’s report tracks sales made through mid-May. Through that time period, taxable sales in the city have totaled about $677 million, up from about $666 million during the same time in 2012.

    That’s good news, especially given that 2012 was a stellar year. Retail sales totals in 2012 grew by more than 5 percent, which was the largest percentage gain since 1998. So, the fact that retail sales are going above and beyond those totals is significant.

    As for the glass-half-empty part, the report does have some numbers that likely will catch the eyes of City Hall budget makers. Sales tax collections for the latest collection period, mid-April to mid-May, were down by about 2 percent. A one-month decline isn’t cause for much concern, but this is the second month in a row that retail sales have declined. That makes next month’s report one to watch because three consecutive months of declines could be considered a trend.

    The larger issue, though, is the city is now at the halfway point for its sales tax collections in 2013. (In case you are wondering, the city receives a check from the state once per month, and it recently received its June check. Because of lag time in collections, the June check only represents sales made through late May. Now you can amaze your friends at parties this weekend with the inner workings of the state’s sales tax collection system.) At the halfway point, sales tax collections are running below the city’s budget projections.

    Thus far, collections are only down by about 0.2 percent compared to the budget. One good month will wipe out that shortfall. But the question, of course, is whether something has changed in the economy that will cause good months to be fewer and farther in between. The city is now projecting one scenario where sales tax collections would come in about 1 percent under budget, which would create about a $260,000 shortfall in the city’s budget.

    It also would get the city’s 2014 budget started off on a bad foot. City Manager David Corliss’ 2014 recommended budget, which was released yesterday, projects sales tax revenues to grow by 2 percent over the amount the city budgeted to collect in 2013. So, if the 2013 collections come in less than budgeted, then sales tax collections in 2014 will have to grow by even more than 2 percent to meet budget.

    None of this is new. Projecting sales tax collections is always a difficult part of the budget process. And if it makes you feel any better, cities all over the state are struggling with the issue too. Retail sales numbers are all over the board. Here’s a look at some of the larger retail markets in the state:

    • Emporia: up 2 percent

    • Hays: Down 3.1 percent

    • Kansas City: Up 5.2 percent

    • Manhattan: Down 3 percent

    • Ottawa: Up 5.1 percent

    • Overland Park: Up 2.2 percent

    • Olathe: Up 2 percent

    • Shawnee: Up 4 percent

    • Topeka: no change from the prior year

    So, what does all this mean? Is the glass half full or half empty? I don’t know. But, of course, I have a certain policy about glasses, a certain beverage and this heat. I take no chances. I keep a glass in each hand — one half full and the other half empty.

    Reply 3 comments from Frankie8 Oneeye_wilbur

    Sales tax collections drop slightly during March Madness period, but still up for the year

    Despite an earlier exit by the Jayhawks in the NCAA basketball tournament this year, Lawrence residents still did a pretty decent job of buying veggie trays, guacamole dip, crimson and blue face paint, beer koozies, extra televisions for the bathrooms, 50-foot Jayhawk yard inflatables and all the other standard March Madness purchases. (My list probably misses a couple of items for your typical basketball party, but I didn’t want to be accused of going overboard.)

    City officials have received their latest sales tax report, which covers mid-March through mid-April. Even though the Jayhawks’ run in the tournament ended a few games earlier than the 2012 trip to the championship game, sales totals for the period were off by only 0.1 percent.

    The report found that retailers did about $111.9 million in sales for the period, down from about $112.1 million during the same period a year ago.

    As usual, it is never wise to put too much stock in one month’s worth of sales tax data, so let’s take a look at the broader picture. The most recent report represented the fifth of 12 sales tax reports for the year, and, thus far, sales in the city are up about 2.4 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

    Taxable sales in the city check in at about $568 million through the May reporting period, up from about $554 million a year ago. The totals represent a slowdown in the growth rate from a year ago, when retail sales grew by a little more than 5 percent, and from the 2011 growth rate of 4.5 percent. Lawrence’s growth rate of 2.4 percent is just a bit behind the statewide average of 2.7 percent. As for how Lawrence stacks up to some of the larger retail centers in the state, here’s a look:

    • Emporia: up 2.2 percent

    • Hays: up 2.3 percent

    • Kansas City: up 4.3 percent

    • Manhattan: down 3.4 percent

    • Olathe: up 2.9 percent

    • Ottawa: up 4.2 percent

    • Overland Park: up 2.9 percent

    • Salina: up 1.0 percent

    • Shawnee: up 4.5 percent

    • Topeka: down 0.2 percent

    The latest numbers also show that the Douglas County communities of Baldwin City and Eudora also are having nice years thus far on the retail front. Sales tax collections in Baldwin City are up 6.8 percent, and in Eudora collections are up about 15 percent.

    Reply 1 comment from Jane_doe

    Lawrence retail spending off to strong start in 2013; up 3.1 percent for the year

    Here I thought I was the only one who visited my banker around Valentine’s Day. I’ve found that a home equity loan is useful when you’re trying to buy a year’s worth of forgiveness.

    But apparently I’m not alone because a new report from City Hall shows retail spending spiked during the mid-February through mid-March period. The city’s latest sales report shows retail spending increased by 6.3 percent during the mid-February to mid-March period, compared with the same period a year ago.

    It is always risky to put too much stock into one month’s worth of numbers, but we’ll see if this is the beginning of a spring spending surge. Regardless, retail sales in Lawrence are off to a solid start in 2013. Sales tax collections through the April reporting period are up about 3.1 percent compared with the same period a year ago. (The most recent report was for the April reporting period, but because of a lag time in processing, the numbers represent sales generally made in mid-February to mid-March.)

    Here’s a look at how Lawrence’s retail sales totals stack up to past years. As always, the number in parenthesis is adjusted for inflation. Take a close look at those numbers, because for the first time in awhile the adjusted numbers show that Lawrence basically has returned to the pre-recession numbers of 2008 and early 2009. In other words, perhaps we have about dug out of that hole.

    2013: $456 million

    2012: $442.4 million ($448.5 million)

    2011: $422.3 million ($437 million)

    2010: $406.2 million ($433.6 million)

    2009: $421.4 million ($457.22 million)

    2008: $421.1 million ($455.2 million)

    As for 2013, Lawrence’s growth rate is slightly above the statewide growth rate of 2.9 percent. Here’s a look at how Lawrence’s growth rate of 3.1 percent stacked up with some of the larger communities in the state:

    • Emporia: up 2.9 percent

    • Hays: up 3.3 percent

    • Kansas City: up 5.8 percent

    • Manhattan: down 3.2 percent

    • Olathe: up 3.8 percent

    • Ottawa: up 5 percent

    • Overland Park: up 1.5 percent

    • Shawnee: up 4.5 percent

    • Topeka: down 0.1 percent

    That list tells me one thing: My wife has been shopping in Kansas City. Dangit. I should have kept that joke to myself. Now, I have to find my banker’s number again.

    Reply 4 comments from Jackpot Krichards Catalano

    Lawrence’s retail sales up 2.1 percent for first quarter

    In case you had forgotten, today — April 15 — is tax day. But I hear that a high-ranking federal official will be in town on Friday, so perhaps you could save yourself some postage and just ask him to take it back to D.C. with him.

    Let me know how that goes.

    In the meantime, let’s talk taxes of a different type. The city of Lawrence now has received sales tax revenue through the first quarter of 2013, and the city’s retail sales totals are showing growth over and above what was a robust 2012.

    Through the March report, the city has tallied $354.1 million in retail sales, up 2.1 percent from the same period a year ago. In case you are scoring along at home, these totals don’t represent sales actually made from January through March. The state’s reporting system has a lag, so these totals represent sales made in late 2012 up to about mid-February.

    If you are looking for a reason to be negative ( and why wouldn’t you, it is tax day), the city’s March numbers are down about 1.2 percent from March 2012 numbers. But worrying about one month’s worth of sales tax numbers would be like me worrying about my wife buying $150 worth of leftover Easter candy. It's just something that happens in life.

    If you are really looking for a reason to be negative (geez, how much do you owe the federal government?), you also could point to the fact that the city’s sales tax collections are growing more slowly than they did a year ago. But that may just be you being a grump because the city posted a blistering growth rate of 5.24 percent in 2012, which was the city’s best retail growth since 1998. Over the past five years, the average growth rate of retail sales in Lawrence has checked in at 1.8 percent. So, the first quarter was about average.

    Compared to other places in the state, Lawrence’s performance in the first quarter was mixed. Statewide, retail sales grew by 3.7 percent. Here’s a look at some of the larger retail markets in the state:

    • Overland Park: up 1.2 percent

    • Olathe: up 4.9 percent

    • Kansas City: up. 6.3 percent

    • Topeka: up 1.3 percent

    • Emporia: up 3.5 percent

    • Salina: up 1.7 percent

    • Hays: up 5.0 percent

    • Manhattan: down 4.0 percent

    (Look what happens when your football team goes to a bowl game. Everybody leaves town and spends their money somewhere else. I knew KU football knew what it was doing all along.)

    A little closer to home, here’s a look at totals for some smaller communities around Lawrence. But take these figures with a grain of salt. The totals are often so small that it takes only a few dollars to produce a sizable change.

    • Baldwin City: up 5.5 percent

    • De Soto: down 5.9 percent

    • Ottawa: up 7.7 percent

    • Tonganoxie: up 8.1 percent

    • Eudora: up 16 percent. I actually did the math on that one, and the increase represented an extra $1 million in retail spending during the first quarter. Eudora has been running an aggressive “buy local” campaign, with signs everywhere in town. So maybe that it is it, or perhaps my wife simply found a leftover Easter egg candy outlet in Eudora.

    And finally, it wouldn’t be a sales tax article unless I got out my inflation calculator. (You should see the size of that thing.) Here’s a look at Lawrence’s retail sales totals since 2008 — just prior to the financial crisis. The numbers in parentheses are the total adjusted for inflation, in order to give you an idea of how much retail sales have grown above and beyond inflation.

    • 2013: $354.1 million

    • 2012: $346.6 million ($350.4 million)

    • 2011: $333.2 million ($343.9 million)

    • 2010: $309.1 million ($329.1 million)

    • 2009: $327.9 million ($354.8 million)

    • 2008: $334.7 million ($360.9 million)

    So, we haven’t quite rebounded back to the levels seen prior to the financial crisis, but we’re very close. And we clearly have bounced backed from the lows of 2010.

    If you want more analysis than that, you are going to have to do it on your own. I’ve got breakfast to eat — Cadbury eggs and chocolate bunnies, of course.

    Reply 14 comments from Jafs Bigal Oneeye_wilbur Ibroke Chootspa Gotland Merrill Appleaday Tolawdjk Lawrenceguy40 and 3 others

    Lawrence retail sales post 5 percent gain in 2012, the largest growth rate since 1998

    New numbers suggest Lawrence shoppers didn’t exactly go crazy during the holiday shopping season, but they did a pretty good job of being loose with their wallets every other time of the year.

    The city has closed the books on its 2012 sales tax collections, which means we also can look at 2012 retail sales.

    The year end report shows $1.35 billion worth of taxable sales took place in Lawrence in 2012, up from $1.29 billion in 2011. That’s an increase of 5.2 percent, which is the largest growth rate for retail sales since 1998, when the city had an 8.5 percent jump in sales.

    The city posted the strong numbers despite the fact that sales tax collections in December were down significantly. December collections were off by about 6 percent from the same period in 2011. The December report — because of lag times in reporting — represents sales made in mid-October to mid-November, which means the early part of the holiday shopping season.

    The city also released its January 2013 report, which gives a little more hope that the holiday season wasn’t all that bad. Collections during that period were up 6.7 percent from the same period a year ago. That report tracks sales made from mid-November to mid-December, so right in the heart of the holiday season.

    The December and January reports kind of offset each other, so the holiday sales totals thus far are a bit of a wash. The 2012 holiday totals are up 0.1 percent from the same period in 2011. The February report, which will report sales from mid-December to mid-January, will tell the story on this year’s holiday shopping season. Those numbers should be out in a few more weeks.

    Until then, here are some other facts and figures from the 2012 sales tax report:

    • The city collected $32.36 million in sales taxes in 2012, which was up from the $30.55 million the city had budgeted to collect during the year.

    • Retail sales in Lawrence were up on a consistent basis throughout 2012. Retail sales were up during 10 out of the 12 reporting periods in 2012. Only the December and September periods were down when compared with the same period a year ago.

    • The $1.35 billion in taxable sales, when adjusted for inflation, was the highest total since 2008, when the city had $1.36 billion in inflation adjusted sales. That’s significant because it shows Lawrence’s retail numbers almost have recovered what was lost during the Great Recession.

    As for how Lawrence compared with other cities around the state, here’s a look at a few:

    • Lawrence: 5.2 percent

    • Baldwin City: 0.7 percent

    • Basehor: 20.9 percent

    • Emporia: down 1.9 percent

    • Eudora: 8.6 percent

    • Kansas City, Kan.: 5.9 percent

    • Leavenworth: 0.9 percent

    • Olathe: 4.3 percent

    • Ottawa: 0.8 percent

    • Overland Park: 3.5 percent

    • Shawnee: 0.9 percent

    • Tonganoxie: down 8.0 percent

    • Topeka: 0.1 percent

    One thing I did notice is that most cities had a better first half of the year than they did a second half. We’ll see what 2013 brings. More credit bills in my mailbox is my guess.

    Reply 2 comments from Merrill Steve Jacob

    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.

    Reply 12 comments from Gccs14r Kansasliberal Krichards Catalano Steven Gaudreau Absolutelyridiculous Lunacydetector Chad Lawhorn