February 25, 1995 in Nation/World

Sales Tax Proceeds Show Dropoff In Retail Growth But Kootenai County Merchants Enjoyed A Strong Holiday Season

Eric Torbenson Staff writer

Kootenai County merchants rang up strong holidayseason sales, but the local economy also showed signs of slowing down.

Taxable sales increased 3.6 percent during the fourth quarter of 1994 compared with the same period in 1993, new records from the Idaho State Tax Commission show.

That increase tracks with national trends and exceeds the inflation rate. But the 1994 growth rate pales in comparison with a 12.2 percent increase in sales tax between the fourth quarters of 1992 and 1993.

Taxable sales include everything sold except wholesale items, out-of-state shipments, trade-in deductions and sales to tax-exempt buyers such as city and county agencies.

A decelerating North Idaho economy and more severe winter weather during the 1994 shopping season may have contributed to slower growth, said Kathryn Tacke, labor analyst at the Idaho Department of Employment.

However, sales tax data for the entire year show robust growth in retailing. Kootenai County showed nearly 11 percent more taxable sales in 1994 than in 1993. The increase between 1992 and 1993 was 6.4 percent.

“We’re still seeing excellent growth in sales here,” Tacke said.

For all of North Idaho, taxable sales in 1994 eclipsed the $1 billion level for the first time. Sales for all five counties combined increased a healthy 17.8 percent compared with 1993.

In Kootenai County, less construction activity may have contributed to a slower rate of sales tax growth. Tax receipts from construction spending dropped 12 percent from fourth quarter 1993.

In the traditional holiday retail catego ries of clothing and shoes, taxable sales rose 9.5 percent for the period.

But for the popular home furniture and home electronics sector, sales dropped 14.6 percent during the holiday season in 1994 from 1993.

Non-gift categories such as manufactured homes and groceries fared better.

Sales tax from manufactured homes jumped 70 percent from the same time last year. Grocers recorded 8.6 percent increases in tax receipts as well.

Shoshone County showed the best fourth quarter 1994 improvements in taxable sales. An excellent and early ski season helped Silver Valley tourism and sales tax numbers rose 20 percent.

Silver Mountain Resort has been having its most successful season, with revenues running about 20 percent ahead of last season, said Tim Newhart, marketing director for the resort.

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