Several parts of the economy took a hit this year because of COVID-19 — retail tax collection in Geary County was not one of them. Retail tax collection for the county was $225,630 for August, up from $179,439 in Aug. 2019.

January through August is up just over $164,000 over the same period last year.

“We budgeted $1.9 million (for the year),” said Geary County Treasurer Kathy Tremont. “Our current collections are at $1,650,000. For the eight-month period we are over $330,000 of what we projected.”

Despite the pandemic forcing businesses to close for several weeks and limit their return, more people are shopping local and online, Tremont and County Commission Chair Keith Ascher said.

“It's definitely good news, because I think the city and the county both had concerns early on back in March when the economy virtually shut down except for essential businesses,” Ascher said. “I think some of it is attributed to the fact that people are shopping more local.”

In addition to people keeping their dollars local, collecting taxes from online sales is another contributing factor to this year’s increase.

“Thankfully (several years ago) Kansas joined the streamline sales tax and we were able to start collecting some of those online-purchase sales tax,” Tremont said. “I think that that probably helped a lot during this period of time.”

Although the tax collection report does not show what industry saw increases, Tremont said auto sales are up and, especially at the start of the pandemic, people spent a lot of money as they cleared grocery store shelves.

“People were in that hoarding mode,” she said. “People didn’t know if they would be able to get out and get these things and there was gossip around that the stores would be shutting down, which I think caused a frenzy.”

People were also having to buy more groceries because restaurants closed and people were at home. All those purchases contributed to the sales tax collection increase.

“I think our hardware stores probably (did well),” she said. “People were doing a lot of those outdoor projects it seems like. Just driving through down the streets in town you can see a lot of people outside working.

Ascher said the increase goes to show what can happen when people do shop locally.

“This is proof positive that shopping local helps the local economy,” he said. “The more we can do that the better off everyone is.”

The retail tax collection goes into the county general fund.

“Anytime sales tax increases, that lessens the burden of property tax, because everybody has to pay it,” Tremont said. “Those monies go into the general fund, which pays for all the services that the county provides.”

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