Island County sales tax revenues slow

Early estimates show that the county’s sales tax revenues are down from last year despite more optimistic projections.

“It cooled down,” said Budget Director Elaine Marlow at last week’s commissioner work session. “That’s quite a bit less than what you saw in 2014 at the same time.”

However, commissioners agreed that it’s too early to worry.

“It’s so early in the year,” Commissioner Rick Hannold said. “It’s too early on pulling the trigger on trying to panic.”

The county saw a 9 percent increase in 2014 but projections show 2015 coming in at only a 5 percent increase, instead of the 8 percent that was projected. The difference would translate to a $100,000 decrease in budget capacity.

The previous year saw a 4 percent increase in revenues.

Growing revenues over the last couple of years allowed the county to add back services that were cut during the economic recession that began in 2008. Sales tax revenues were particularly strong last year and are tied largely to the house construction industry, Marlow said.

Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said that the dip in sales tax revenue shouldn’t be problematic because money was allotted in the general fund for just such unexpected happenings.

“We won’t have to cut staff or reduce force,” Price Johnson said. “We were optimistic; I still continue to be actually.”

Marlow said she’s seeing similar trends in sales tax coming from the county’s juvenile detention and mental health programs, but that they have the financial capacity to make up for the shortfall.

Marlow said she’s more concerned with how things will play out on a state level.

For instance, Marlow said the state may pass legislation that would remove a rebate on economic development taxes. Marlow and Price Johnson both called the legislation “concerning.”