Fort Pierre and Pierre show healthy, well above average increases in sales tax revenues in the first part of 2020, which seems to be at odds with expectations for the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and what most other South Dakota cities are experiencing, city leaders said this week.

Pierre Mayor Steve Harding credited the city’s policy of not shutting down businesses, as some cities have done, but relying on business owners and the customers to be careful and to follow federal and state guidelines for safety in the pandemic. Fort Pierre Mayor Gloria Hanson has said her city has taken a similar approach to dealing with the pandemic, relying on the judgment of business owners and customers.

Fort Pierre’s sales tax revenue has averaged $1.189 million per year in the six years 2014-2019, ranging from a high of $1.269 million in 2015 to a low of $1.141 million in 2014, according to figures from the city’s Finance Officer Roxanne Heezen.

Sales tax revenues decreased in 2016 (5.8%), 2017 (3.15%) and 2018 (0.75%).

In 2019, the city’s sales tax revenue totaled $1.219 million, up 6.4% from 2018’s $1.149 million.

In the first four months of 2020, Fort Pierre’s sales tax revenues have totaled $378,495.29, the most for any January-April period going back at least to 2011, according to Heezen’s figures.

The $378,495.29 collected January-April 2020 is 14.4% above the $330,830 collected in the same four months in 2019, way more of an increase than has shown up in any previous year for years, according to Heezen.

She said increased grocery store purchases during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the new Casey’s convenience store and gas station, are two main reasons for the increase at a time many might have expected sales tax revenue to slump.

According to figures from Pierre City Finance Officer Twila Hight, the city’s 2020 sales tax revenue is up 5.2% through May, compared with the first five months of 2019.

This year, from January through May, the city collected $3,459,165 in sales taxes, up 5.19% from $3,288,396 for the first five months in 2019, according to figures provided by Hight.

In April, city sales tax revenues were up 2.54% over April 2019, to $691,574.

In fact, in four of the five months this year, sales tax revenues have been higher than any corresponding months in 2017, 2018 or 2019, according to Hight’s figures. Only in January, before the pandemic and response to it really began, were sales tax collections lower than another January recently: In 2018, January sale tax collections were $829,864 in Pierre, higher than January 2020’s $816,148, which was higher than January 2017 ($799,557) and January 2019 (757,075).

Aberdeen showed a strong increase, too, of 9.4% in sales tax revenues in the first five months of the year compared to January-May in 2019, Hight said.

Most of the other “Class 1 municipalities” in the state — cities with 5,000 or more people — showed smaller increases, or decreases, so far in 2020, Hight said.

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