††† It doesnít change things, but sometimes knowing that others are in a less favorable situation than you are can be of some consolation. Such is the case with retail sales tax rebates, a traditional (if not always definitive) barometer of economic well-being.

††† Sales tax collections have been trending downward in Texas since February, and they continued to be weak in the latest monthly cycle that reflect sales made in October. Compared to a year ago, sales tax collections were down across all major sectors of the Texas economy, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs announced Friday. Statewide, November collections were approximately $1.7 billion, down 14.4 percent from a year ago, and December allocations were $417.1 million, down 14.6 percent. Those reflect sales made in October.

††† The December-to-December allocations of the four Brown County cities that collect sales taxes varied dramatically, and those fluctuations can be affected by the timing of some businessesí reports. But when the four citiesí December checks are totaled, that amount is down only 4.69 percent in compared to this month in 2008. Thatís an improvement going into the final two months of the year, and the hope is that it is also a trend.

††† Itís impossible to get the full picture from one monthís statistics, but a full yearís receipts provides a better perspective. Statewide, the final sales tax allocation of 2009 brings local sales tax revenue for the year to $5.6 billion, 5.1 percent less than in 2008. In Brown County, the receipts for all of 2009 were down 3.29 Ė somewhat better than the state as a whole.

††† Those end-year numbers wonít track the year-end figures shown by municipal governments, because they are typically operating on fiscal years that donít correspond to the calendar year.

††† The reports provided by the comptrollerís office in January and February, reflecting November and December sales during the Christmas season, will be greatly anticipated Ė especially since retailers have so far been seeing stronger than expected sales. If those reports are positive, the economic turnaround the state has been waiting for may have taken hold.

Brownwood Bulletin