Rolla’s sales-tax remittance figures, which until recently have shown a decline of as much as 6.5 percent from a year ago, have rebounded, much to the satisfaction of officials at City Hall.


Despite the 0.31 percent increase over a year ago, there remains some concern as the 2010 budget reflected a 1 percent growth, meaning revenues still are 0.69 percent behind budget projections.


Rolla’s sales-tax remittance figures, which until recently have shown a decline of as much as 6.5 percent from a year ago, have rebounded, much to the satisfaction of officials at City Hall.

Despite the 0.31 percent increase over a year ago, there remains some concern as the 2010 budget reflected a 1 percent growth, meaning revenues still are 0.69 behind budget projections.

City Administrator John Butz on Tuesday said recent numbers have all reversed the negative trends that saw first-quarter fiscal sales-tax receipts dip to a level that was raising red flags at City Hall.

“Those early numbers drew a lot of concern,” Butz said. “We were on the verge of taking serious action.”

Since, however, sales-tax remittance has rebounded dramatically, with January’s revenues at $351,090 — up 9 percent from a year ago — and February’s revenues at $265,802 — up 13 percent from a year ago. January’s remittance reflects sales in November and February’s correlate to December’s sales.

“You can say we’re sleeping a little better, yes,” Butz said.

However, that is in dramatic contrast to the alarm the city administrator sounded in a letter to department heads on Dec. 30.
Staring at sales-tax revenues after its first-quarter approaching deficits of 7 percent, Butz sounded the sirens to city leaders.

“We are operating with a deficit due, in part, to a decline in sales-tax of 6.5 percent over the first three months of the last fiscal year,” Butz wrote.

In Butz’ letter, he suggests three initial measures of belt-tightening, beginning with cutbacks in supplies and building maintenance. He estimated the annual maintenance costs for all city buildings to be $320,500, of which he told directors 10 percent could be saved.

Secondly, Butz sought to restrict business-related travel and training. Also, there was an effort to affect personnel.

“As personnel costs make up almost 70 percent of the General Fund, we need to make adjustments there ... We will limit the amount of vacation buyback to a maximum of 25 percent of the accrued vacation earned until further notice,” Butz wrote.

Lastly, Butz advised city department directors that despite item purchases may be budgeted, they should not be completed without approval.

“... It’s important to remember that just because something is budgeted, it does not mean that we can automatically proceed with spending. It is imperative expenditures match expenditures,” Butz wrote.

So, now that sales-tax revenues have rebounded past 1 percentage point of last year’s figures, Butz says he’s not ready to lower the guard.

“We still have a hiring deferral,” Butz said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a hiring freeze, but we still have three positions we have not filled,” he said referring to positions including a city building inspector, a city engineer and a fire marshal.

Butz was quick to point out two additional facts: 1.) Besides the first-quarter numbers for 2010 were down 6.5 percent from 2009, additionally, tallies were percentages below those of a more prosperous 2008; 2.) The city projected a modest 1 percent sales-tax growth in its 2010 budget, which actually put the first-quarter 2010 funding 7.5 percent behind revenues in the current budget.

Last year, as sales-tax revenues were trailing 2008 numbers, Butz first drafted and then presented to City Council members a Budget Contingency Plan — a “what-if scenario” — if a 10 percent decline in revenues was realized.

Butz offered no reason for the slow first-quarter sales.

“We don’t know why. All we can figure out was people were holding on to their money a little longer, ahead of Christmas,” he said. “Our numbers are back to about where they should be, but other communities and in Missouri still are experiencing tough times.”

Because of Missouri S&T, Phelps County Regional Medical Center, the opening of St. John’s Clinic and the U.S. Geological Survey, Butz said Rolla may be insulated somewhat from tougher economic times.

“I think we may be slow to feel the effects (of a recession) because of our institutions, and we probably come out of it at the same time (as other towns),” Butz said.