EARLY— Early City Administrator Tony Aaron announced the city increased its sales tax revenues by 46 percent since 2014 and hopes attending an upcoming conference will keep Early’s momentum going.
Aaron attributed the steady, sustained increase in sales tax revenue to a myriad of economic policies focused to making it more attractive to entrepreneurs large and small.
“We’ve had a steady growth in our sales tax, around five or six percent. With some of the latest developments coming in, it really gave us a boost over the last couple of years to reach that 46-percent increase,” Aaron said. “I’m on my fifth year. There were some changes in policy and attitudes. It was a positioning of our local economy ready to grow and the availability of some land out here toward the east. We take a really aggressive approach of recognizing the benefit of sales tax, jobs and economic dollars to the city.”
Aaron said city officials, elected and unelected, maintain a philosophy of balancing sales tax revenue increases with property tax cuts. With the recently constructed Holiday Inn, Hobby Lobby, Burger King and a slew of other business openings and relocations, Aaron estimated a 2.48 increase in revenues in 2019. Instead of increasing the overall budget with capital fund improvements to match the additional revenue, city officials passed the savings back to city taxpayers through a 1-cent decrease in property taxes.
“It’s a snowball effect. It’s not something that happens rapidly, but it adds momentum to economic growth,” Aaron said. “A community is about a lot of things that drive growth in economics – the schools, the quality of life, what the city is about and the belief system of the organization. I think we’re seeing that. I think there is more to come down the road. If we can continue to grow our economy, we can continue to shrink that property tax.”
While presenting the budget last fall, Aaron said the Brown County Appraisal District certified Early has $208,773,524 in taxable properties, which is an increase of $14,188,833 from last year with an addition of $5,172,410 of new taxable property. With multiple housing developments currently in progress that figure will likely increase in 2019. City officials will travel to an out-of-state conference Wednesday to lure potential businesses to Early, but said their selection of businesses will not be out of desperation.
“What we really want to focus on are the types of businesses that aren’t here. We want to diversify our economy,” Aaron said. “We want to bring a business into Early that our citizens are leaving and driving to Abilene to shop for. Those dollars are leaving and we want to capture those. That is a focus of what we do when we go to these conferences. Let’s look at what would be profitable to them, but also fulfill our needs in bringing us something we don’t already have.”
This year marks Aaron’s fifth year as city administrator and, although it would be tempting to take all the credit for himself, Aaron said much of the kudos belong to city staff members who understood his goals, then planned and executed those plans to bring those goals into fruition. With Harris Broadband expanding high-speed internet access to Early, Aaron the economic success Early experienced in the last five years is just the beginning.
“The future of Early is very bright. We have an opportunity to continue growing. With Harris Broadband coming in to fill that void, we have high-speed quality internet in a community of about 3,000 people. That’s one more check in the box. When a developer asks if we do they have the things they need in our community we can say ‘yes we do.’”