Harvey County sales tax collections continue slide

Chad Frey
The Kansan

Sales tax collections have fallen short of the previous year’s for two consecutive months in Harvey County, and county administrators are reluctant to call it a trend while pointing to business shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic as a cause.

For the month of May 2020, collections were 4.99% below those of May 2019. April’s fall was 3.33%.

The county collected $139,856.38 on its first cent of sales tax, and $63,732.44 on the second cent. Sales tax collection revenues are distributed to cities in the county.

“Do not let the negative scare you,” said Dan Bronson, assistant county administrator. “We are waiting to see if next month is a positive and then it falls off, or if we will continue to see a slide. That remains to be seen.”

One of the reasons not to be concerned, Bronson said, is that May 2019 was one of the largest sales tax collection periods in the county’s history — and while 2020 shows less than 2019, it also is above 2018 collections.

“We are comparing this year’s number, which is still a very high number, with the highest it has ever been,” said Anthony Swartzendruber, county administrator. “We know it is a decrease, but we do not know if this is the beginning of a trend.”

And decline in sales tax revenue for a couple of months is expected after business shutdowns due to executive orders by Gov. Laura Kelly to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We know that sales tax is going to take a pretty solid hit due to COVID-19,” Bronson said. “It is far reaching and unprecedented. We are expecting that. We are following this.”

In other business Tuesday the commission:

• Learned that Commissioner Chip Westfall, emergency management director Gary Denny and health department director Lynette Redington met with the Harvey County Fair Board to discuss the Harvey County Fair. The board will make a decision about the fair in about two weeks.

• Received letters from area nursing homes thanking the commission for the county’s support through the COVID-19 pandemic and urging the commission to “stay the course” with limitations on visitors to nursing home facilities.

• Received an law enforcement center renovation center update. Completion of the project is expected by the end of June.

• Received a report from county communications. Dispatchers are taking legislation to the state level to have communications workers reclassified as first responders.

• Learned that the West Park Bridge will be replaced, with work beginning in the next two weeks and completion scheduled for December.

• Set solid waste fees. Fees did not change.

• Moved the county to Phase 3 of a COVID-19 reopening plan. The limitations were approved to be in place for two weeks. The move allowed for larger group gatherings while keeping restrictions on visitors to nursing homes.

• Approved the application for a Bureau of Justice Assistance from the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program grant. Harvey County was notified of eligibility for an allocation of up to $58,008. The funds will be used for personal protective equipment reimbursements.

• Began departmental budget hearings.