Cheryl Jones, of Evans, says that for many of the things she needs, shopping at the stores at Mullins Crossing is more convenient than driving to Richmond County.
"At least once a week we get something from the restaurants or stores," said Jones, as she left the Target store last week with her 2-year-old daughter Halli after purchasing a movie. "It's very convenient."
Since the Mullins Crossing development opened one year ago, the county has enjoyed substantial increases in sales tax revenue, and county officials say its convenience is keeping sales tax dollars in the county instead of residents sending money into Richmond County's coffers.
In July, the latest month in which data were available, Columbia County retailers and restaurants generated a record $1.48 million in sales tax revenue, which is about $330,000 more than July 2005, according to county records. This July beat the county's previous top month of April 2006 by about $25,000.
Since the first stores in Mullins Crossing opened at the end of September and beginning of October 2005, monthly sales tax revenues have bested the revenues generated during the same months of the previous year by at least 11.23 percent. This past February, the county generated 31.18 percent more revenue than February 2005.
County finance director Leanne DeLoach said in an e-mail that sales taxes generated by particular retailers are not specified in the lump sum payment the county receives from the state and could not say how much the stores at Mullins Crossing generate. Still, she said, sales tax figures have exceeded forecasted revenues.
Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said revenues from the development exceeded his expectations, and other stores such as Academy Sports and Outdoors, the Evans Town Park development on North Belair Road and the Evans Lowe's store will further increase revenues.
"This is all a part of our plans that we initiated three or four years ago to give the citizens an opportunity to shop within the county, and they are doing that," he said. He added that the 2010 U.S. Census, which should officially set Columbia County's population at more than 100,000 people, could also help the county by drawing more national chain retailers and restaurants.
Cross said if increased sales tax revenues continue, a roll back in property taxes might be possible in 2007. Despite the increased revenues, the county is still asking voters to approve the proposed $43 million capital improvement projects bond to fund infrastructure improvements.
Though the sales tax revenues are up now, Cross said they are subject to economic downturns and if the county were to rely solely on sales tax revenues, such as special purpose local option sales tax projects, those capital improvement projects would be delayed until funding is in hand.
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