Jefferson revenue hike has president cautiously optimistic

Jefferson revenue hike has president cautiously optimistic

“I’m not in favor of new taxes, but I’m in favor  of new taxpayers.” John young, Jefferson Parish president

Jefferson Parish continued its upward trend in sales tax revenue in February, and while Parish President John Young isn’t ready to call the improvement permanent just yet, he is pleased.

Sheriff Newell Normand released his monthly sales tax report Friday, and it shows steady growth in collection since August. Compared to the same month in 2012, Jefferson Parish collected about 3.3 percent more sales tax revenue from businesses this year, the figures show. When considering total collections of taxes, permits and licenses, the parish saw an 11.3 percent increase in revenue with the total collected at about $36.5 million. In fact, the biggest increase came in occupational licenses and insurance premium taxes because of scheduling quirks.

Young called the report “good news,” but said he is not ready to proclaim that Jefferson Parish has totally rebounded from the slump that saw revenues declining steadily from March 2012 to August. He noted that the February figures contain bumps for Mardi Gras and the Super Bowl, which could have skewed them slightly.

“I’m still cautiously optimistic because I want to see a six-to-nine month trend,” Young said. “It’s a positive trend.”

According to the figures from Normand’s office, roughly 70 percent of the revenue collected came from the east bank. In fact, most of the major tax collection locations on the east bank saw sharp increases in the revenues collected compared to last year. Elmwood’s collections were up 11 percent; the Airport Taxing District was up 137.57 percent; Fat City was up 13.4 percent and Jefferson was up 34 percent.

The report noted that while sales tax collections were up in the West Bank’s two major retail areas in Harvey and Marrero, they may have been negatively impacted by the closure of the Huntington Ingalls Shipyard in Avondale. Staffing at the shipyard has already been decreased from 7,000 to 3,000, and the report notes that the reduction decreases the overall available disposable income on the West Bank.

Young said the shipyard’s impending closure remains a focus for his administration, and he’s encouraged by the state’s efforts to find another company to come into the site. He noted that with the Huey P. Long Bridge widening project expected to be completed in June, the parish could finally see the boom in activity officials have predicted for years. Young hopes that will bring new job, and in turn people willing to spend money.

“I’m not in favor of new taxes, but I’m in favor of new taxpayers,” Young quipped.

He noted that the parish must figure out a way to increase the economic pie instead of just dividing it further. However, he said he doesn’t want to be too pessimistic about what the report shows.

“Obviously we don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth,” Young said.