Like the City of Paris, the Henry County government seems to have thrived economically during the COVID-19 pandemic rather than suffering, at least temporarily.
Henry County Mayor Brent Greer reported to the county Budget Committee Tuesday that the county’s sales tax revenues were up by more than 10% from the previous year for August. That was the fourth consecutive month the revenues had risen by double digit percentages.
The City of Paris has been reporting similar increases in sales tax money, with four straight months in double digits as well.
Many had forecast doom and gloom for local governments when the coronavirus outbreak hit, with people theoretically expected to not get out and shop as much during the pandemic.
Greer pointed out a twist to the situation that might be a factor in the good numbers here. He said he felt more people in smaller communities like Henry County were staying in their local area to shop during the virus era rather than traveling to larger cities like Jackson, Clarksville or Paducah.
Another thing that has helped revenues is legislation that was passed about a year ago that changed the way revenues from internet sales were distributed. Prior to November 2019, revenues collected from internet purchases were distributed in Tennessee based on size of counties’ tax bases. That is, the larger counties received the larger percentages regardless of where the products were actually delivered.
The new legislation changed that, with the “point of destination” for the purchased product being designated as the local government that received credit for those sales taxes.
“That’s really helped the smaller local governments to see an increase in the internet sales revenues,” Greer said.
The financial situation is looking up enough for the county that Greer is proceeding with a plan to provide one-time bonuses to county employees worth 2% of their salaries.
The county did not give cost of living raises to its employees during the budget process this year. Greer mentioned at that time, however, that he wanted to give these bonuses whenever the finances became more clear after a few months of the COVID pandemic.
He said several county officials, including Rob Whitfield, county attorney; Mary Burns, chancery court clerk and master; and Randi French, trustee, had been working to collect some funds for the county that had previously been unclaimed. Greer said the county had been successful in collecting about $200,000 of those unclaimed funds.
The budget panel agreed Tuesday to move $85,000 into a line item to account for the one-time bonuses for the county general government workers.
The Solid Waste and Highway departments are also going to provide those 2% bonus payments. The Solid Waste Department will use $7,000 from its fund balance, and the Highway Department will use just more than $22,000 from its fund balance.
Pat Hollingsworth, county budget director, said the bonuses will likely be paid to the county employees in November. They will be in a separate check from the longevity bonuses that are paid to the workers who receive those.