2010 parish sales taxes smash previous records

Deidre Cruse, Governmental Reporter

Industrial construction and a new one-cent sales tax phased in over the past three years pushed Iberville's parishwide sales tax collections to a sixth consecutive record in 2010.

From 2005 through 2010, sales tax revenues paid to local governments have more than doubled – increasing from $23.5 million to $31.2 million, according to information the POST/SOUTH compiled from Sales Tax Department reports.

The 2010 revenues totaled $54.7 million, an $8.67 million increase over 2009 collections, the latest report showed. It was the largest jump in collections since 2006, when the revenues increased by $11.6 million over the previous year.

Although it was clear in November that collections would set a new record last year, margin of the increase was boosted by some $2 million collected as a result of parish audits of industrial and business' sales tax payments, Chief Administrative Officer Edward A. “Lucky” Songy Jr. said.

CPA P. J. Caballero conducted a series of audits covering the years 2006 through 2009, Songy said. The parish collected the extra money as a result of settlements of the debts – including one for $1.8 million owed by a major industry. Parish officials would not identify the companies audited.

The Iberville Parish Council, the parish's six municipalities and the School Board rely heavily on sale tax collections for their operations. Together they levy sales taxes of five cents on the dollar. (The state government adds another four-cent tax on sales.)

The Parish Council and the municipalities share the proceeds of two and two-thirds cents in taxes, including a new one-cent sales tax voters approved in 2005 that was phased in over three years. Their sales tax revenues have risen from $9.85 million in 2005 to $28.65 million in 2010.

The parish collects another one-third cent to pay for residential garbage collections. It has increased from $197 million in 2005 to $3.13 million in 2010.

The School Board has a two percent tax. Its revenues have increased from $11.66 million in 2005 to $22.3 million in 2010.

The totals also include a two percent tax on hotel and motel room rentals, paid mainly by visitors to the parish, which fund tourist promotions. With the opening of a new hotel in Plaquemine and improvements at Nottoway Plantation, revenues from that tax have gone up from $9,771 in 2005 to $41,772 in 2010.

Apart from the parishwide taxes, only the City of St. Gabriel collects a separate sales tax within its corporate limits. The city had levied a one-third cent tax until October 2009, when it increased the levy to one cent on the dollar. St. Gabriel's collections have gone up from $587,724 in 2005 to $1.1 million in 2010.

In December, parishwide taxes totaled $6.02 million, of which $3.09 million went to the parish and municipal governments, $2.5 million to the School Board, $418,450 to the Solid Waste Tax and $3,654 to tourism. St. Gabriel received $77,053 from its separate tax.