Posted: Jul 10, 2012 10:31 AM by AP
MANSFIELD, La. (AP) - DeSoto Parish sales and use tax collections are down $30.6 million from a year ago, raking in almost $90 million in 2011-12 vs. the all-time high of $120 million in 2010-11.
DeSoto Sales and Use Tax Commission Administrator Chris Robinette tells The Times the decline is directly related to the downturn in oil and natural gas activity that started about three months ago.
On the plus side, other facets of the parish's economy are "holding their own," Robinette said. Industry and retail businesses are reporting "pretty steady" collections each month, as are the occupancy taxes from the three new hotels that opened a year ago in Mansfield. Car sales also are "OK right now," even showing a slight increase last month.
The parish's nine tax-collecting entities have been bracing for the fall since the major oil and natural gas companies earlier this year announced a slowdown in Haynesville Shale drilling as they seek out more lucrative oil plays elsewhere in the nation.
Drilling is not at a complete stop, though. Seven rigs are operating in the parish. A year ago, the number was 48. Two years ago: 60-plus.
The DeSoto School Board, the largest benefactor of sales taxes collected in the parish, already has cut by almost $2 million the amount of money designated for a trust fund for retiree benefits. The reason: "Sales taxes didn't reach the level that was budgeted," Business Department Director Steve Stanfield said.
The School Board was able to build the trust fund to $43 million over the past four years. Interest has earned approximately $2.8 million.