City sales tax revenue remains strong


City of Mineola sales tax revenue rose sharply over the same month a year ago, and the annual upward trend points toward a healthy local economy – an economy poised to grow stronger, according to a community business leader.

“This city is rapidly becoming discovered,” said local businessman and Chamber of Commerce President Vic Savelli. “I think Mineola’s prospects are very bright.”

The city’s most recent report from the state, which reflects May receipts, indicates sales tax revenue of $177,063, a 16.77 percent increase over May 2017. Year-to-date, the city shows a 3.59 percent gain over fiscal 2016-17 and is on pace to top $2 million for the first time. Last year’s total sales tax collection total stood at $1.96 million.

From the 8.25 percent Texas sales tax, the city collects 1.5 percent. A half penny of every dollar subject to sales tax is designated for economic development in Mineola. The rest goes toward funding city operations, and it comprises 35 percent of the city’s general fund revenue.

City Administer Mercy Rushing and city Secretary and Finance Director Cindy Karch say the steady growth in sales tax revenue plays a key role in tamping down the local property tax rate. They have based next year’s budget on a 3 percent growth rate in sales taxes.

Rushing, who doubles as executive director of the Mineola Economic Development Corp., said that among comparable cities, “We’re doing very well.”

In terms of producing sales tax revenue, Walmart remains Mineola’s 600-pound gorilla, but the addition of businesses like Whataburger and Beall’s in 2014, and last year’s addition of Bush’s Chicken, Hibbitt Sports and Dollar Tree have attracted shoppers from other Wood County towns such as Hawkins, according to Rushing.

Although storefront occupancy downtown is at about 90 percent, down from the normal 95-98 percent, new businesses continue to add to the retail mix in the city’s commercial heart.

“We’re getting fewer hobbyists and more serious merchants,” Rushing said.

From his perspective, Savelli sees two characteristics instrumental to growth in Mineola: its classic small-town feel and its proximity to dynamic urban growth centers like Tyler and Dallas. The city maintains a good mix of mom-and-pop shops as well as national chain stores, he said.

Retirees are drawn to Mineola to escape big city hubbub, according to Savelli, and the city also is starting to get noticed by business interests from large metro areas, which view Mineola as “an untapped source.” Savelli, whose business is acquiring distressed property, rehabbing and then selling it, said he now must compete for property with investment groups out of Dallas.

He cited Emory and nearby Lindale as examples of the rapid growth presumably heading this way. Lindale, south of Mineola on U.S. 69, is experiencing “phenomenal retail growth,” he said.