Hammond sees slight dip in December sales tax revenue

December sales tax receipts in the city were down slightly from the same month last year, city officials told the City Council on Tuesday.

The council was told it marks only the second time in almost two years that monthly collections for one year failed to outstrip the same month from the previous year.

Sales tax collections were $1.78 million in December, down 2.56 percent from the same month in the previous year. In 14 of the previous 15 months, the sales taxes collections reflected an increase over the same month of a year earlier.

Hammond Mayor Mayson Foster told the council that while the sales tax news was disappointing, he was not discouraged. He said total sales tax collections for 2012 were greater than collections in the previous year and that revenues derived from the tax still were running above what was budgeted by the council for the current fiscal year ending ends June 30.

For the 2012 calendar year, a total of $18.134 million in sales taxes were collected, up from $17.205 million collected for the previous year.

“I remain very satisfied with our sales tax returns for the past year and I thank all of our residents for shopping at home and helping our city with the taxes we derive from their purchases,” Foster said.

In a related matter, Foster reported that funds derived from video bingo parlors in Hammond fell from the previous year. During 2013, the city collected $700,260 from video bingo, down from $727,153 the previous year.

Receipts from video bingo have steadily declined since the city authorized the devices in late 2006. In 2007, the first full year of video bingo, the city collected $910,000.

Video bingo proceeds are used to support the Louisiana Discovery Center, Hammond’s children’s museum and capital outlay programs.

In other matters Tuesday, the council approved spending up to $65,814 for construction of playground equipment and other improvements to a recreation area in the impoverished Lincoln Park neighborhood.

Grants Director Lacy Landrum said $20,000 of the total cost will come from a grant given by the Ka Boom Foundation, a group that assists in playground construction.

Volunteers will assemble the playground equipment, which is being purchased from Planet Recess in Baton Rouge.

A Community Builds Day has been set for April 4-5. Landrum said that a similar event last year in Zemurray Park attracted a large number of volunteers. She urged the public’s participation.

The council also approved transferring $45,000 from the Hammond Police Department’s Court Witness Fund to its capital fund so that the money can be used for additional features that will be added to the new Police Department headquarters. The old Hancock Building on South Oak Street is being renovated to serve as a new police headquarters.

Foster said these funds should be all that is needed to complete the project, which is nearing completion.