Pass Christian Sales Tax Collections Down

Sales tax revenues are up in every South Mississippi city, except for Pass Christian. The city collected $44,551 in March of 2006. That's compared to just $37,710 collected in March of this year.

And that's not good news because sales taxes support a city's budget to help pay for things like operating expenses and salaries.

Hurricane Katrina wiped away the beach front Wal-Mart in Pass Christian, as well as the colossal sales tax revenues the store generated for the city.

"When Wal-Mart was here, we did about $1.4 million in sales tax, which is sufficient for a small town like this, which had only 6,500 before the hurricane, down to 4,000 now," said Pass Christian Mayor Chipper McDermott.

Pass Christian is the only South Mississippi city whose sales tax revenues are down from this time last year, but McDermott expects things to look up when Wal-Mart is scheduled to reopen and build back bigger in late fall of this year.

Mayor McDermott also points out that ad valorem taxes make up the majority of the city's general funds. He expects the city to reel in a lot more money in property taxes in about a year and a half as people continue to rebuild.

"We lost 65 percent of the homes. Now the homes, we've done 1,600 permits since then, so the homes are coming back, but when they build the homes, it's another 18 months before they're on the tax rolls," McDermott said.

McDermott acknowledges the city is struggling to survive economically right now and says he and other South Mississippi city leaders are counting on state funds to come through again this year.

"We talked to Long Beach, Bay St. Louis, and Waveland, and we're all going to have problems with the general funds. It's going to be short. There's no doubt about that. The grant money, we're all getting our grant money, but the money that you need to live on in the general fund is going to be short," he said.