Kootenai County retail sales dropped for the first time this decade during the second quarter 1995.
The five-county Panhandle region registered a slight increase in sales of taxable retail goods compared with the year-earlier period, according to the latest numbers from the Idaho State Tax Commission.
But decreases in the region’s two largest counties - Bonner and Kootenai - suggest the North Idaho economy continues to cool from its rapid growth in the early ‘90s.
The broadest measure of how an economy is faring, taxable sales include everything sold except for government and wholesale purchases.
Between 1990 and 1994, gains of 15 percent or more in taxable sales were common for Kootenai and other Panhandle counties. That dropped to about three percent in the first quarter, before bottoming in the second quarter.
Despite the slowing pace of growth, Kootenai County’s cut of the sales tax pot likely won’t be endangered, said County Clerk Tom Taggart.
Unlike Spokane and other Washington counties, which pull sales tax revenue from residents with a simple percentage, Idaho counties get apportioned sales tax revenue from a dated business inventory formula set in Boise.
While that formula probably cost Kootenai County some of the sales tax money it produced in the recent boom years, it could cushion the budget from an economic slowdown if sales in the rest of the state continue to increase, Taggart said.
“If we’ve slowed down but Boise’s picked up, then it wouldn’t really affect the distribution,” Taggart said.
The second quarter numbers reflected a slowing construction economy in Kootenai County. The sale of building materials dropped 15 percent; sales of construction steel dropped 34 percent.
But sales at restaurants and bars were up, reflecting the county’s growing service and tourism sectors.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Panhandle retail sales