Now appearing to be firmly on the other side of the recession, Clayton has seen 5-percent growth in sales-tax receipts over the past five years.
The biggest spike was from 2014 to 2015, when sales-tax revenue in town rose more than 10 percent. But last year saw another 8-percent jump – to the tune of $3.2 million from registers dinging in Clayton.
Last week, the town’s finance director, Robert McKie, presented the town council a look at key growth figures in Clayton over the past five years.
Sales-tax receipts, property-tax revenue and property valuations are all up, but gains appear to be leveling off, McKie said. Last year, Clayton’s property-tax revenue jumped 10.2 percent to $9.6 million, but McKie attributed that to the town’s 2.5-cent tax hike. Total property values in town have grown 3.6 percent over five years to $1.79 billion.
“Sales tax is a good indication of the economic recovery,” McKie said.
Later he told the council that current-year revenues are ahead of projections. “Sales tax is ahead of budget for the year, which is a recurring theme each fiscal year; they’re generally higher than what we budget,” he said. “I don’t expect sales tax to take a nose dive. I see that continuing to grow. But then again, are we going to have 8.5-percent growth? I can’t predict that.”
The town’s fund balance, or cash reserves, closed out fiscal year 2016 at 24.5 percent of general fund spending. The town’s policy is a minimum of 20 percent, which Clayton fell below in 2015, McKie said, with the purchase of parkland.
“Last year we dipped a bit below that due to some nonrecurring capital-outlay expenditures,” McKie said. “It’s up in 2016, so we’re back in recovery mode there.”
McKie told the council the fund balance is now around $7.7 million, with $5 million not earmarked for spending.
“We added $74,000 to the fund balance in 2016, and that’s net of a $480,000 (outlay) for the Sam’s Branch (sewer line project),” McKie said. “I would expect to see some additional fund balance in 2017, barring anything popping up that wasn’t budgeted.”
One figure McKie said was important was the town’s debt compared to total government spending, excluding capital projects. The town is now at 12.4 percent, with a policy requiring no more than 15 percent, which Clayton surpassed in 2012.
“Several years back we set a goal to reach 13 percent by 2019; we’ve been fortunate to achieve that,” McKie said. “That should continue to improve, barring the issuing of new debt.”
The town also spiked in how much of its debt it would pay off in 10 years. That figure is now at 69.3 percent, with a policy requiring at least 55 percent.
“This is a critical ratio rating agencies look at, whether towns or municipalities would be back-loading their debt,” McKie said.
Overall the council seemed pleased with the numbers, though with talk of a bond referendum in coming years, many things could change in Clayton.
“This is very good news,” Mayor Jody McLeod said.
“We had a very good year,” McKie said.