Last Modified: Friday, July 20, 2012 7:56 PM
News that Calcasieu Parish sales tax collections for the recently completed fiscal year handsomely exceeded expectations is but one more reason to point to a rosy economic future for the near-term in Southwest Louisiana.
Collections for fiscal year 2012 that ended June 30 rose 10.5 percent over the previous year.
More than $4.4 billion was collected in taxable sales in FY 2012, nearly $420 million from FY 2011.
Sales taxes increased in eight of the 11 categories that Calcasieu Parish School Sales Tax Department tracks.
The biggest increase in collections came in the manufacturing category, up more than 47 percent over FY 2011. Other categories that enjoyed increases included food, apparel, merchandise, furniture, utilities, motor vehicles and miscellaneous. Decreases were found in automobiles, building material and miscellaneous services.
‘‘It’s a continued reflection on how healthy our economy is,’’ Calcasieu Parish Sales Tax Department Director Rufus Fruge told the American Press.
Clearly, spending in Calcasieu Parish was up last fiscal year, a trend that bucks the national economic pulse.
With Calcasieu government agencies routinely taking a conservative approach to estimating revenues, the sales tax collections should result in budget surpluses.
This, though, is no time to forget the tough times of a few years back, nor going on any elaborate spending sprees.
Elected officials and government staff must ask themselves what are the priorities. When it comes to funding a project, the first question should be is it a necessity or a luxury? A need or a want?
Several government bodies recently have announced that because of the increased sales taxes, they would reduce the millage that they ultimately pocket from property taxes.
A handful, like the City of Lake Charles, has had no choice but to increase its millage. In the city’s case, its contribution for police, fire and municipal employees has been dramatically increased over the past few years. Overtime for police protection has also chewed into city revenues.
But the bottom line is that the bottom line for most government agencies in Calcasieu Parish is better because of the increase in sales tax revenues, but elected officials need to be wise in how they spend the surplus.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.