The way my travels fell meant I got back to back posts for sales tax because of the release schedule. So the question is: what have we learned? Well if somebody can explain to me the way the city is breaking out the report and why that makes sense, I would appreciate it.
The big month is finally here! We now have a month with sales tax numbers reflecting the increased sales tax rate for the Grand Forks. We are all so happy that we could… Alright, enough of that. The results are somewhat to be expected. From the May 2018 total June was down over $200,000. Costs go up with the sales tax increase and people and businesses adjust if they are able. The more problematic part really is that June 2018 is down almost 1% fro June 2017, more than $120,000. These are not outcomes we particularly like even though they are somewhat predictable.
Alright, we got the update from the city and it was not pleasant. Year-to-date collections are down more than 10%, and cities preferred measure (though we do not know why it is preferred) is down 6.87%. The forecast was for $1.35 million in collections and it came in at $1.02 million. So my pessimistic forecast was still too rosy. Based on this the updated forecast for May is revised down to $1.3 million.
Over the past few weeks the conversation about sales tax has been pretty consistent and fairly intense. That is probably as it should be given the overall importance of revenue generation across the state right now. What have I done so far? I think the best thing to date may be the discussion surrounding the rolling twelve month series used by the city. Rather than accuracy it is more about stability. Eleven of twelve months in the series are the same from one month to the next so of course the series is stable. The flaws of this approach can be seen when you look at the recent decline. A good month is totally outweighed by the totality of the previous eleven. It also begs a statistical question: should all these months be given equal weight while in the series and then just disappear? That seems highly suspect.
The latest numbers from the state OMB showed some interesting information regarding taxes, again. Rather than focus on sales tax this time I thought we could branch out into income taxes. Why? Sales tax revenues get the bulk of attention in the media and from me generally and I think branching out is important. Another reason is as the impacts and effects of the oil decline transmit into other sectors more fully, and the state budget cutting starts to fully take effect, we will see other revenues exhibit declines. My interest in the overall forecasting process, if we can call it that, also means we need to branch out into other revenue areas to understand the complete picture of the revenue process. The individual income tax revenue was also almost $20 million short of the forecast in May. With that in mind here is the picture for actual versus forecast individual income tax revenues in North Dakota: