Sales tax collections in Lafourche Parish increased for the second year in a row, records show.
Collections for the fiscal year that ended June 30 increased by about $713,600 over the previous year, parish records show, bringing total collections up to about $78.5 million parishwide.
The Sales Tax Office, operated by the Lafourche School Board, reports collections monthly.
Within the parish, sales taxes are divided among several agencies to pay for services such as public education, levees and drainage, law enforcement and garbage collection.
The latest report shows a second consecutive year of increased revenue. In 2017-18, collections increased by almost $5.9 million.
Last year’s jump nearly compensated for the 2016-17 loss of about $6 million but was largely attributed to the collection of several years of unpaid taxes.
Sales tax revenue increased steadily between 2009 and 2015, peaking at $82.3 million in 2014-15 before dropping to $72 million in 2016-17.
Some of the largest collection increases between the 12 agencies were seen in the tourism commission, the town of Golden Meadow and the School Board.
Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou CEO Timothy Bush said the tourism agency’s additional $160,000 can be attributed to the increased hotel tax and higher hotel occupancy rates. The state Legislature increased the parish hotel occupancy tax rate from 3 percent to 4 percent last year. The parish is authorized to collect as much as 5 percent.
Occupancy rates are 4.4 percent higher than they were at this time last year, Bush said. That increased revenue is put back into the agency’s marketing efforts, targeting more visitors who will in turn generate more local tax revenue.
This year’s revenue increase puts the tourism agency’s revenue around the same as it was before a Gulf of Mexico oil bust that started in 2014 caused collections to drop, he said.
“Our hope is that trend continues to move in the current direction,” Bush said, calling the numbers “encouraging.”
The Lafourche Sheriff’s Office collected $278,000 less than the previous year. Meanwhile, the special sales tax that pays off bond debt on the new jail increased by over $100,000.
The Sheriff’s Office’s sales tax rate is 1 percent and is collected outside city and town limits. Another 0.2 percent is collected across the parish for the jail.
Despite the downturn, Sheriff Craig Webre said “the outlook is much more positive.”
Revenue has continually declined since about 2014, resulting in cuts on non-essential expenses and consolidated positions in the department, Webre said.
“We’ve just been very very studious in preparing and projecting ahead,” he said.
While the agency saw another dip this year, it was much less steep.
When the state is better able to collect online sales tax revenue, those numbers could increase, Webre noted, adding that he’s not opposed to centralized online sales tax collection but that local parish collectors are “studious” in their duties.
Only $2.3 million of the tax income per year pays off the jail’s bonds. The rest is used to defer cost of the much larger building, Webre said.
With a total collection of about $3 million this year, that leaves $700,000 to pay for a larger jail staff, he said.
-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @JuliaArenstam.
Posted on Fri, August 16, 2019
by By Julia Arenstam Daily Comet Staff Writer