I was asked about the path of sales tax collections in Grand Forks recently so I took to my trusty computer and made a graph. This looks at the rolling total tax accumulations by month for each of the last five years. There is a great deal of clustering for these years, but 2017 looks to be on track for one of the lowest years.
Compared to the recent high (2015) we are off by almost 9%. If that holds Grand Forks would end the year below $20 million in total collections for the first time since 2013, and would be below the 2013 number by around $70 thousand. Clearly there is time for a reversal but we need to consider a few issues:
- The recent exchange rate improvement will not help retail sales too much because the differences in tax treatment in Grand Forks and the Canadian market is a bigger deal, though there can be some impacts on a few specific sectors,
- The NAFTA situation is a big question mark for the state as a whole and the producers in this region leaving some significant uncertainty for a few key sectors (energy and agriculture),
- Labor constraints remain an enormous issue for the state and region as you try to figure out the direction for the local economy.
There are other things to consider such as the level of enrollment at UND and other types of demographic factors, but those require some more data and a different post.