Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenues increased 10.1 percent in Oconee County following the opening of a cluster of stores, including Marshalls, PetSmart and Gap, in Epps Bridge Centre in the third quarter of 2013.
But Clarke County also increased its revenue from its SPLOST tax during that same period even while it was losing stores to Epps Bridge Centre.
The Oconee County increase was a larger percentage but on a much larger base, and Clarke County actually experienced a considerably bigger increase in actual tax dollars.
Barrow County saw a decline in SPLOST revenue from the third quarter to the fourth quarter of 2013, but its growth rate in the first two quarters of 2014 exceeded the growth rate in Oconee County, even though Epps Bridge Centre continued to open stores in that period.
|Chamber Of Commerce Sign|
Clarke County experienced a larger growth rate in the first quarter of 2014 than did Oconee County, but Clarke County’s tax revenues decreased in the second quarter while both Oconee and Barrow counties experienced growth.
A comparison of the revenues realized by the three counties since the end of 2009 makes it clear that tax revenues are not simply a result of increased commercial development.
Theater Case In Point
University 16 Cinemas was the first business to open in Epps Bridge Centre when it began operation in June of 2013.
Revenue from the county’s 1 percent SPLOST tax actually declined by 1.3 percent in the next quarter.
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In fact, Oconee County experienced a decline in SPLOST revenues for four consecutive quarters, starting with the fourth quarter of 2012.
Growth reappeared following the opening of Gap and its sister stores Old Navy and Banana Republic as well as Marshalls, PetSmart and Pier1 during the third quarter of 2013.
The dramatic growth of 10.1 percent was followed by a sluggish 0.7 percent growth in the first quarter of 2014, even though Dick’s Sporting Goods opened in the final quarter of 2013.
A new store does not necessarily bring new customers or new revenue to the county, as consumers can simply shift their purchases from an existing store in the county to the new store.
Barrow and Clarke Comparison
While Oconee County was experiencing the four quarters of decline, starting in the fourth quarter of 2012, Barrow had two quarters of strong growth, one period of decline, and another period of strong growth.
Clarke County during this same period had two quarters of growth followed by two quarters of decline.
In the chart below, the increments on the vertical axis have been set to be equal to make comparisons across the three charts possible.
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The vertical axis also has been altered so that neither the Barrow nor the Clarke charts start at zero, again to make comparisons possible.
In the second quarter of 2014, Oconee County collected $1,541,457 in SPLOST revenue, while Barrow County collected $2,265,840 and Athens-Clarke County collected $5,230,032.
Following the 10.1 percent growth from the third quarter of 2013 to the fourth quarter of 2013, Oconee County collected $1,489,824. At that same point, Barrow County collected $2,131,332 and Clarke County collected $5,179,515.
The 10.1 percent increase in SPLOST revenue experienced by Oconee County in the fourth quarter of 2013 was an increase of $136,845.
The 3.6 percent increase in SPLOST revenues for Athens-Clarke Count was an actual increase of $181,598, or $44,753 more than collected by Oconee County.
Pier1, Gap and Old Navy were among retailers in Athens-Clarke County that moved to Epps Bridge Centre from stores on Atlanta Highway.
All three counties collect a 1 percent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
As the chart above shows, collections are more erratic in Clarke County than in the other two counties, reflecting, no doubt, the ebb and flow of the student population and the impact of sporting and other special events.
I downloaded the monthly data for the three counties, which share the flow of traffic between Atlanta and Athens, from the Georgia Department of Revenue web site.
I collapsed the data into quarters to smooth out monthly fluctuations and to accommodate for special distributions made irregularly by the Department of Revenue.
Distributions lag by a month, so revenue Oconee County receives in January is from December sales.
Context For Discussions
The data provide context for the discussions of the SPLOST 2015 referendum on the ballot in Oconee County this November. That tax will continue the existing 1 percent sales tax.
The Oconee County Chamber of Commerce is supporting the tax, and the sign above is one being distributed by the Chamber.
The data also provide context for the county’s consideration of an expansion of the commercial area along Epps Bridge Parkway.
The Board of Commissioners will discuss building a roadway to open up land behind Wal-Mart and Lowe’s for future development at its meeting on Tuesday night.
"Tax base" is their most favorite foundation to a sentence. Next is "no raise in millage rate" which is smoke and mirrors with the assessor in their pockets.
Another old phrase as true now as then: "Who watches the watchers?"
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