ATASCADERO — For the fourth quarter of 2011, Atascadero saw a double digit increase in sales tax revenue over the same quarter in 2010, which brought in $60,000 over its projected budget.
This was the third quarter in a row for the city to see an increase of sales tax revenue. It saw a 11.6-percent increase in receipts.
City Administrative Services Director Rachelle Rickard said that since each quarter is different because of the time of year, the quarter is compared to the same one the previous year to see trends.
Second quarter 2011, retail sales tax income was up 9.7 percent. In the third quarter, sales tax was up 2.3 percent.
“Our increases are beating the county average and the state trend,” Assistant City Manager Jim Lewis said.
The only city that was ahead of Atascadero is San Luis Obispo. Paso Robles saw the second to lowest sales tax increase for the county with 4.1-percent growth.
Lewis noted that Atascadero’s sales tax income is driven by fuel services
“We are [selling] more gas,” Lewis said. “Atascaderans aren’t necessarily buying more gas, but people are getting off the freeway.”
He said that that shows that more people are stopping in Atascadero and are likely spending more money than on just gas. He added that the sales tax income for restaurants and hotels were also up healthily.
“That’s something we’re very pleased with,” Lewis said.
Even though Atascadero does not have new car dealerships, Lewis said the city saw a 6-percent increase on automobiles and transportation. He said 777 Auction has helped on that end, as well as bringing in sales tax income for other retail categories.
“All of our efforts are working,” Lewis said. “You can’t pin responsibility on anyone; the community is coming together. This success will beget success.”
Per capita, the sales tax income is lower than the Central Coast, the county and the state. He said that that shows that people are shopping elsewhere. Atascadero has the second lowest per-capita sales. Grover Beach is the only one lower.
In a breakdown of items purchased, it showed that more than $1,000 per person in Atascadero is leaving Atascadero for family apparel, restaurants and liquor and discount department stores.
The report also showed that people come to Atascadero for home goods and building supplies.
Lewis said that the city uses those figures as a tool to bring new businesses to town to fill gaps.
One success was bringing in $60,000 over the city’s budget, which Lewis said was optimistic, so it’s a real success for the city to come in as high as it did.
When asked what that extra $60,000 will be used for, Lewis said that it’s up to city council for the final say, but that it will likely be used to make up the reserves that the council opted to use to keep city services running.
Lewis said that initially the council had approved using $1 million in reserves for this fiscal year, but that it is now in the high $600,000s.
“Our goal is to eradicate the shortfall,” Lewis said. “We’re starting to get back to neutral.”
He said that the city is still a ways from increasing services, but it’s good news.
“I think this means operations are stable,” Lewis said.