EBR spending little changed despite January storms

Despite severe winter storms that shut down some local stores and kept shoppers away from others for several days, spending in East Baton Rouge Parish by consumers and businesses was basically unchanged in January from a year ago.

Sales tax collection figures released by the city-parish Finance Department show businesses and consumers spent $602 million in January. That compares with nearly $603.4 million in spending in January 2013.

The figures do not include vehicle sales, which are generally examined separately when looking at spending as an economic indicator.

Sales were down in most categories, including retail trade and food stores, which account for more than half of all collections in the parish. Manufacturing and dining also were down. But spending on services was up by 9 percent.

Spending outside the city limits, which includes the Mall of Louisiana and big-box retailers on Siegen Lane, was down 5.6 percent in January to $276.8 million.

Spending, excluding vehicles, within the city limits was up nearly 4.9 percent in January to $325.2 million. This includes activity at Cortana Mall and on College Drive.

Vehicle sales were down nearly 9 percent from the year before, dropping to $56.5 million.

Many small businesses and retailers shut down for three or four days in late January because customers and employees couldn’t get to them because of widespread closures of interstate highways and city streets. The Baton Rouge Area Chamber said the storms had a $40 million impact to the local economy based on lost income, wages, sales, spending and production.

But local governments in the Baton Rouge metro area spent an additional $500,000 a day on overtime for public safety and public works employees, equipment costs and additional services.

Tax collections for the city-parish, which include vehicle sales, were down 1 percent in January to nearly $13.2 million.