FLORENCE — There are few line items in the first quarter financial report to make city officials frown.
Sales tax collections are up compared to the same period a year ago, and department heads are, mostly, staying within their budgets.
“This shows the good fiscal condition of the city,” Council President Dick Jordan said. “We need to keep doing exactly what we are doing.”
Sales tax collections for the first quarter of the fiscal year — October through December — were $4.55 million representing a 2.76 percent increase from the same period a year ago.
The largest percentage increase was recorded in the lodging tax category. Collections in the first quarter totaled $26,954, an eye-opening 366 percent increase when compared to first quarter of 2012.
Van Morgan, president of Downtown Florence Unlimited, the merchants organization, said the opening of several new hotels in the past two to three years has had a measurable effect on the city’s finances.
“They all have sales managers and they are all out there selling Florence and bringing in a lot more visitors,” he said. “Lodging taxes are going to build the new visitors center in McFarland Park.”
The quarterly report reveals other interesting financial details. For example, liquor tax collections are down 20 percent, but beer and wine tax collections are up 9 percent and almost 20 percent, respectively. Rental fees for camping spaces in city parks are up almost 33 percent, golf driving range fee collections are up more than 84 percent, and firing range fees paid by the Police Department-sponsored shooting club are up more than 54 percent.
One of the few declines was noted in ad valorem taxes for real property, which were down more than 5 percent compared to the first quarter of 2012.
Mayor Mickey Haddock said sales taxes were projected to grow 4 percent this year, and that projection is not reflected in the first quarter. Sales tax collections increased by 6 percent in the 2012 fiscal year, he said.
“The thing I was most pleased with was where we were with spending,” he said. “In reviewing the expenditures, in some areas at this time of the year, we have been way beyond where we should be in quarterly spending, especially in overtime pay. I am very pleased with where the department heads are and the restraint they are using.”
Both Haddock and Jordan said the growth in revenue in the past two years may finally allow the city to tackle some capital projects that were delayed because of the 2008 recession.
“We can enhance the entire city — drainage projects, additional downtown streetscaping,” Jordan said. “We’ve been trying to get the library appropriation up.
“I’m very optimistic,” he added. “We can do some things that we haven’t been able to do in the past several years. We owe it to the people to provide them some new things, like an archive and a new Indian mound museum.”
Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.