Sales tax revenues continue to increase
-By Katie Zerr
A positive trend in Mobridge in recent years points to a growing and healthy economy in this area.
While other parts of the country are still struggling to recover from the slow economy nationally, there has been an increase in sales tax revenues in this area. That means people are continuing to spend money and move the economy of the area forward.
Sales tax revenues fund local governments and the City of Mobridge is one many municipalities that has seen positive growth in those revenues in recent years.
For example, from 2012 to 2013, revenues from sales tax in Mobridge are up 6.31 percent. Other area towns have also experienced an increase in tax revenues. In Akaska, revenues are up a whopping 47.69 percent, in Glenham, 17.5 percent; and in Selby and Java, 6.67 and 4.83 percent respectively (see accompanying chart.)
There have been some negative revenues in the area with McIntosh dropping .20 percent and Timber Lake down 9.49 percent.
Sales tax is applied to the gross receipts of all retail sales, including the selling, leasing, and renting of products.
There are many factors, including a strong Ag industry and solid tourist numbers, that drive positive retail sales in the community.
All sales tax revenues got into the general fund. City budgets are based on what is in the community’s general fund.
In Mobridge, the police, street and parks departments are all funded through the general fund. The library, the Mobridge city administration and the airport are also financed through the general fund, as are special programs such as West Nile spraying .
Although there have been positive increases in the sales, there have also been increases in the daily operation of the city that takes a bite out of any tax revenue increase.
“Yes we got an increase in sales tax revenue but the city gave the employees a raise and insurance rates increased,” said Mobridge Chief Financial Officer Heather Beck. “Fees the insurance companies are charging us to administer Obamacare are costing us $7,500 a year.”
Beck said insurance costs have taken a large bite out of the tax revenue increase, but that doesn’t mean the city is hurting when it comes to finances. She said the city is healthy financially.
“This council has been very mindful of putting capital outlay away for things outside of the normal budget items,” she said. “For example, the street department needs new equipment and the council has been designating funding for the purchase of that equipment.”
Beck, who has been the finance officer for more than four years, said when she first started her job she encouraged setting undesignated funding aside in case of an emergency.
“If we had a natural disaster or an equipment failure, we needed to have funding to deal with it,” she said. “I suggested $1 million in that fund and we are there now.”
The city budget is set based on estimated revenues expected in the coming year. Beck said this council has been fiscally responsible in not spending more than is expected.
“I always underestimate anticipated revenue,” she said. “But they don’t use the savings to balance the budget. They find ways to cut their budgets without cutting projects or interrupting services.”
Beck said she doesn’t foresee any problems with city finances unless the national economy takes another hit.
“When it is all said and done the council can sit down and decide how much is needed to run the city and what they can afford to spend and where,” she said. “They will continue to set aside funding for the pool, new equipment and projects.”
She said with the increased revenues and the council’s spending plans, the city will be able to continue to move forward with projects that enhance the community.
Driving the increase
Mobridge is known for the Sitting Bull Stampede during the summer and the annual ice fishing tournament in the winter. Both of these events generate tourism dollars in the community. The increase in tourism dollars is one reason tax revenue continues to increase, but other events have become a part of the tax revenue stream.
Two of those events, both to be held in the coming months at Mobridge-Pollock High School, will bring people from a large area to Mobridge.
The Regional AAU Wrestling Tournament will be held here on Saturday, March 15, and according to one of the program organizers, Kenny Jensen, it could mean 1,500 to 2,000 people coming into Mobridge.
Jensen said there would be more than 400 wrestlers and their family and friends coming to Mobridge on that day.
“Last year we filled the gym. That means a lot of dollars turning over in Mobridge,” he said. “They will be staying in hotels, eating in the restaurants and buying gas. This is a big thing for our community.”
Jensen said the AAU Wrestling organization is one of the best and well-organized sports groups in the state. This is a bracketed tournament where there is time between matches for people to spend time in the community.
“It took us about 10 years of work to get the tournament out of Pierre and into other communities,” he said. “Now we vote every year on where the tournament will be.”
Not only does the tourney bring outside dollars into the community, it helps other community organizations.
“Our program donated to the pool committee last year and we will donate the proceeds from the concessions to the pool again this year,” he said. “With what we raise at the tourney we buy equipment and singlets for the team, send kids to wrestling camps.”
Jensen said the tournament is not just for making money, but for bringing more recognition of the sport of wrestling and the wrestlers to the community.
“We do this for the children,” he said. “We are trying to create a successful event for the kids.”
Jensen said working with the wrestlers means a lot to him and the other volunteers. He said it is not about winning. It is about learning.
“Learning good sportsmanship, learning to be a good citizen, a good son or daughter or sibling,” he said. “I tell the kids every day that attitude equals altitude. If you believe, you achieve and you’re a winner.”
Jensen said it takes many volunteers to help put on the tournament and they could always use more help. Anyone wishing to volunteer can call Jensen at 848-1480.
Each year, the Mobridge-Pollock School District hosts an honoring powwow for the graduating seniors. Tonya Hertel, the MP Lakota Studies director, said dancers from all over the region come to Mobridge to dance and compete in the drum group competition.
“In the years past we have had dancers from Nebraska, North Dakota and Montana,” she said. “It has gradually gotten bigger. This year we are holding a two-day powwow starting on Friday night.”
The event will be held Friday, April 24, and Saturday, April 25.
“We are hoping to get the community more involved and want the people to feel welcome,” she said. “We want to share a little of our culture with the people of the community and showcase our traditions.”
There will be more than 100 dancers and a dozen or so drum groups. The prize money is more than $7,500.
“People are going to be spending the night here,” she said. “They can go to the powwow and go to the art show on the same weekend.”
On Saturday, there is a free community feed to honor the graduates, and Hertel said there will be entertainment for the kids during the meal. In past years they have had a magician and face painting.
“It is hard to get a count of how many people attend because there is no charge and people come and go all day,” she said.
She said they normally feed about 400 people.
Hertel said they are planning to have special contests to bring more dancers to the powwow. Last year it was a chicken dance-off (not the dance done at weddings) with the participants dancing for five or more songs straight until the winner was chosen.
“It is really cool to see the people who dance over and over just because they love to dance,” she said.
Anyone who is interested in volunteering or would like more information about the powwow should call Hertel at the MP school at 845-9211.
– Katie Zerr –