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Valley sees increase in sales tax collection

VALLEY — The City of Valley has been on quite a roll in recent months in terms of sales tax collections. Mayor Leonard Riley attributes that in large measure to people shopping at home. In a work session on Thursday evening, City Clerk/Treasurer Cathy Snowden reviewed the city’s financials through the first six months of fiscal year 2020-21. The city is running roughly 13 percent ahead of where it was this time last year, an increase of more than $525,000. Much of the increase is attributed to people staying close to home to spend their money during Covid-19. The strong local spending trend seems to be continuing even with lifted restrictions.

Fuel taxes are down over the last six months, possibly due to less travel. Almost everything is up, including tobacco taxes, beer and wine taxes, daily membership fees at the Community Center, concession revenue at the Sportsplex, rentals and income from liens on nuisance properties. Concessions are showing a profit of more than $5,000.

“We are getting great crowds at the Sportsplex,” Riley said. “It has been packed recently. We are getting back to normal on that. We are getting lots of people for league play during the week and tournaments on the weekends.”

The playing surfaces are in great condition. Last Saturday, for example, heavy rain during the morning caused a delay in a tournament that was taking place, but by 3 p.m. the fields were dry enough for play to resume. The tournament concluded as scheduled on Sunday afternoon.

“We are a little over 50 percent of our budget and are doing good there,” Snowden said. “We just got the money from the CARES Act we applied for. All our departments are staying within their budgets.”

The city is seeing some results from the new lighting on Exit 77 on I-85, as the monthly utility bill has dropped from more than $500 to around $170.

Grants have been approved for a similar project on Exit 79. The exit ramps and the north and south-bound lanes will be well lit from the Chattahoochee River bridge past the new welcome center that’s under construction.

There hasn’t been any major work done on Exit 79 lighting since the interstate opened in the 1960s. A total of 17 poles are down on Valley’s side and a similar number on the Lanett side. Those poles will be replaced and all of them will have LED lighting.

Sales tax is running over $1 million a year ahead of where it was in 2013-14, with online sales playing a role..

Contractor and rental taxes have been growing in recent years.

A 3 percent raise that was given to full-time employees this year will cost the city $94,000. It’s something the city can handle.

“I made sure we could before I recommended it,” Riley said.

Riley said the city’s sales tax is getting into the $700,000 a month range.

“I can’t say enough about how good it is for the city for people to be spending their money here,” Riley said.

Council Member Jim Jones said that a good measure of business activity can be seen at the long lines one sees every day at McDonald’s, Burger King, Jack’s and other local restaurants.

Another factor in the good sales tax numbers is that people are spending their stimulus checks.

When the city benefits from more sales tax, more can be spent on infrastructure such as street paving. Roads paved since 2020 include Cleveland Road, Columbus Road, a small portion of Hopewell Road, 15th Avenue East, 31st Street, 33rd Street, 48th Street, 65th Street East, Williams Street, 14th Place East, Whitesmill Road, 61st Street, 31st Avenue, 26th Avenue, 24th Avenue and an unnamed street in Fairfax. Riley asked each council member to recommend a street in their district that needs paving.