Local sales and use tax data for March released by the Nebraska Department of Revenue show sales in Sarpy County held steady for the month the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
Bellevue, for example, received $1.05 million from the state in March, almost identical to the amount it received in the same month in 2019.
La Vista’s sales tax receipts were $1 million, up from about $944,000 the same month the previous year. The city met its budget amount of sales tax for the month, Community Relations Coordinator Mitch Beaumont said.
Papillion received $3.37 million, up from $1.37 million the same month last year, which was likely due to Facebook and Google buying supplies for their data centers.
Gretna received $219,895, down slightly from $221,373 the same month last year.
Springfield received $56,491, down from $84,295 in March 2019.
Cities have anticipated the March receipts because of the impact a drop in sales tax revenue would have on their budgets, and since cities receive sales taxes two months after the state collects them, cities would get their first look in May.
Gov. Pete Ricketts implemented the first directed health measures limiting public gatherings and shutting down restaurant dining rooms March 20, so the sales tax data only capture about a week and a half of the impact of the pandemic.
An increase in online purchases or shoppers stocking up on supplies could also contribute to the stable numbers.
Papillion Communications Manager Trenton Albers said the impact on the city’s budget would be more clear in June and July when sales taxes from April and May would be received.
One notable decrease was the lodging tax Sarpy County received from the Department of Revenue: $71,815, down from $123,804 in March 2019 and the lowest monthly total since December 2016, according to state data.
La Vista’s hotel occupation tax was 47% below what the city budgeted, Beaumont said. Receipts for the restaurant tax, which went into effect in October, were down 30%.
Early indications of sales taxes for April are good. The Department of Revenue reported net sales and use taxes statewide for April were only 0.9% below forecasts.
Bellevue City Administrator Jim Ristow said it was originally anticipated Bellevue would lose about $700,000 in sales tax revenue through September; however, he said it now seems that prediction was steep.
Although sales tax dollars from restaurants and other businesses heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic certainly have taken a hit, Ristow said that a lot of sales tax revenue is expected to be offset by customers spending their money elsewhere.
“If you walk into Walmart here, there isn’t a bike left in the store,” Ristow said, adding that Bellevue generally generates just under $1 million in sales taxes monthly. “A lot of stay-at-home activities (are happening) – computers are off the shelves because of Zoom meetings; bikes, pools, trampolines, kick-balls – you name it. A lot of those things just flew off the shelves in our retail stores.”
Ristow added the city is also benefiting from sales taxes collected through online purchases. This has been in place since the Legislature passed LB 284 in 2019.
“We are seeing a surge in online sales,” Ristow said.
“Beyond your retail borders we are getting a lot of people buying stuff online while they are stuck at home.”
If sales tax revenues ultimately do take a bigger hit than expected, Ristow said he and his colleagues will take necessary action.
“It’s one of those things that if a trend line goes in a different direction then we would have to make some significant decisions,” he said. “Maybe some of our capital improvement projects, some of our road projects, we would maybe have to pull back.”