The city of Conway gained just over $2.5 million in sales tax revenue in the month of April, a 9.74 percent decrease compared to April 2019, Chief Financial Officer Tyler Winningham told the Log Cabin Democrat.
Winningham said the city expected the decrease as April was the first full month of business and restaurant closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. He added that he expects May to be similar to April, but he hopes June’s revenues will show improvement.
Despite the phased reopening already well underway in Arkansas, Winningham said the pandemic might still have a significant impact moving forward.
“I predict that the pandemic’s effect on sales tax revenue is just beginning,” Winningham said. “April was the first month we saw noticeable change, and I feel that the pandemic will have lasting impressions well into 2021.”
Despite his belief the pandemic might still affect sales tax revenues moving forward, Winningham said he isn’t sure how strong the effect will be in Conway. He also said potential future case spikes and public health response could play a role in future monthly sales tax revenues.
“If we have another spike late this fall and into winter, along with flu season, I predict that we could see another round of shutdowns [that] extend the effect on the economy even further,” Winningham said. “I think we’re going to see a pattern of ups and downs as we continue to deal with this quickly changing pandemic.”
Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry said he wasn’t surprised by the decrease and had expected an even worse decrease. Despite the decrease in revenue, Castleberry said the combination of previous month’s revenue and the city’s spending freeze have helped to handle the lower April numbers.
“We’re OK with [the revenue decrease] because we’re still up for the year,” Castleberry said.
Castleberry said sales tax revenue in the city was up more than 3 percent for the year to date. Winningham said the city’s spending freeze, which Castleberry implemented the first week in March, has yielded a little more than $1 million in savings.