City of Oxford sees 42 percent drop in October sales tax

Published 11:25 am Thursday, December 17, 2020

The City of Oxford continues to see the effects of a quieter Fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as October’s sales tax numbers dropped sharply.

The Mississippi Department of Revenue released the state’s tax numbers this week, which are reported with a two-month delay. Oxford’s sales tax collection saw a 42-percent decline from September.

Oxford collected $512,195.04 in sales tax in October, which was a decrease of $366,493 from September’s collection of over $878,688. That is one of the sharpest month-to-month drops in sales tax since the pandemic hit Lafayette County in March.

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October’s number is also a 44 percent decrease from the city’s sales tax collection from October of 2019.

The Ole Miss football season is the largest revenue driver for Oxford every year. Despite the amended schedule, the Rebels hosted No. 1 Alabama and Auburn in October, but the limited capacity of 25 percent inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium affected the amount of traffic coming to Oxford this Fall.

According to Mayor Robyn Tannehill, the combined number of people who visited Oxford for both October games totaled less than the number of people who came to Oxford for the Rebels’ game against Vanderbilt in 2019.

“We also believe that more people than ever are shopping online, which certainly affects our sales tax numbers,” Tannehill told the EAGLE. “Combine those things with reduced capacity in restaurants, and it is easy to see why numbers are down. …We have expected that our late fall/winter months to be the toughest.”

The city’s food and beverage tax, or the stadium tax, was up 6.5 percent in October. The city took in $297,948 compared to the $279,740 collected in September. October’s number was a 7.1 decrease from the $321,040 the city collected in October of 2019.

Despite limited capacity at Ole Miss football games and fewer people traveling due to the pandemic, Oxford’s tourism tax was up 75 percent in October. The city collected $33,486 in hotel and motel tax compared to the $19,112 collected in September.

Similar to the food and beverage tax, the city’s tourism tax was down 35 percent in October compared to last October. In 2019, the city collected $51,651.

“We are continuing to find ways to promote our small businesses,” Tannehill said. “Last weekend Visit Oxford held the Holly Jolly Holiday Celebration. More than 900 skaters enjoyed the event, as did the parents and grandparents who came to watch. We had more than 180 carriage riders. We have heard from several businesses that they had improved sales over the weekend. Our hope is that events like this will help our restaurants and shops make it through these though months.”