While it only takes a visit to Oxford’s downtown Square during dinnertime to see that things are returning to “pre-pandemic” times, recent tax numbers are also proof that the local economy is improving.
The city received the tax revenue numbers from the Mississippi Department of Revenue. Reports are released two months later, so numbers received in May show March’s tax revenue.
According to Mayor Robyn Tannehill during Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting, Oxford’s tax numbers are on the rise.
“Our tax revenues indicate we are really headed in the right direction,” she said.
The total sales tax revenue for March is $1,053,709, which is up 44 percent from February and up 49 percent from March 2020.
The 2% food and beverage tax collected was $364,704, which is up 52 percent from February and up 67 percent from March 2020.
In the last year, the hotel/motel tax has taken the hardest hit due to the pandemic. While shops, stores and restaurants were able to remain open and offer curbside delivery and online ordering options, hotels and motels saw few guests during the peak of the pandemic.
However, Tannehill said even those tax numbers are improving.
The hotel/motel tax for March came in at $35,952, up 47 percent from February and up 54 percent from March 2020.
“This past weekend we had the Destination Oxford Car Show and the Velvet Ditch Bike Race, and both were very well attended and brought a lot of folks into our community,” Tannehill said. “We’ve had many good baseball weekends over the last few months, both from Ole Miss and mTrade Park, so hopefully, we’ll see those numbers continue to be steady.”
Visit Oxford Executive Director Kinney Ferris said visitors to Oxford spent more than $145 million in the last 12 months.
“Pretty impressive numbers considering where we started,” she said.
Tax revenue affords local citizens amenities that would otherwise either not be there or would have to be paid for through household taxes.
Ferris said by dividing the $145 million by the number of homes in Lafayette County, each resident saves about $730 annually in taxes.
“If we wanted to have everything we do now because of tourism dollars but didn’t have visitors coming here, we would need to make that up with our citizens’ household taxes,” she said.
Tourism dollars have helped pay for a variety of things, including new sidewalks, gear for the downtown Square police officers, new parks and equipment to help keep the Square clean. It helps fund the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, Double Decker Art Festival, Visit Oxford and the Oxford Conference Center.
“We think we’ll see some good things from the next couple of tax checks coming in over the coming months,” Ferris said.