Baldwin City, Eudora collecting more in local sales taxes during pandemic

photo by: Journal-World File Photos

At left is Baldwin City Hall, 803 Eighth St.; at right is the city government office at 4 E. Seventh St. in Eudora.

Residents of Baldwin City and Eudora appear to have done more of their shopping close to home since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the latest sales tax figures from the Kansas Department of Revenue suggest.

Both communities collected more revenue from their local sales taxes in March of this year than in March 2019. And Baldwin City Administrator Glenn Rodden and Eudora City Manager Barack Matite say that’s because many people were staying put in the bedroom communities during the pandemic.

Many Baldwin City and Eudora residents who work in larger urban areas like Lawrence and Johnson County either lost their jobs or started working from home in March, the two city leaders said. That and safety concerns provided an incentive to shop at the local businesses that traditionally provide the city governments with most of their sales tax revenue.

“What drives our sales tax is the grocery store, hardware store and convenience store,” Rodden said. “Those places never closed.”

Data from the Kansas Department of Revenue website on March sales tax collections, the most recent available, shows Baldwin City collected $39,160 in March from its 1.25-cent local sales tax. That was a 14.9% increase from March 2019. Eudora collected $49,667 from its 1-cent sales tax in March. That was 18.6% more than it collected in March 2019.

But the state’s March sales tax distributions also include bad news for Baldwin City and Eudora, Rodden and Matite said: The cities will receive less money from countywide sales taxes this year.

That’s not immediately apparent from the Department of Revenue’s numbers, because Douglas County actually collected more sales taxes in March 2020 than in March 2019. The county took in about $1.7 million in sales taxes in March 2020, up from about $1.5 million a year earlier.

But not all of that $1.7 million will be shared with communities like Baldwin City and Eudora. The county is collecting more money because it added a new sales tax in April 2019 — a 0.25-cent sales tax that is earmarked specifically for a behavioral health campus. The money from that sales tax makes up a fifth of the county’s total sales tax collections, and it won’t be shared with the county’s cities. Both city leaders said their cities received less revenue from the countywide sales tax in March 2020 than they did last year.

The good and the bad tended to balance out, but Rodden and Matite said they were relieved by how well the local sales taxes performed in March.

“Overall, initial numbers are slightly higher than what we anticipated,” Matite said. “We don’t want to celebrate, because we don’t have much to go on since all this started.”

Matite said he and city staff are taking a conservative approach as they craft Eudora’s 2021 budget over the next two months.

“I think for sure there will be no appetite for any kind of mill increase,” he said.

That was the view in Baldwin City, too, Rodden said. The overall budget approach would be cautious, he said, but a number of electrical and wastewater improvements would have to be addressed.


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