Total Retail Volume Was Up In 2012

Published 2:32 pm Tuesday, April 9, 2013

FARMVILLE – Retail sales in Farmville last year surprised Town Manager Gerald Spates, in a good way, and provided more evidence of why Farmville and other towns would rue state abolition of the Business, Professional, Occupational License Tax. Or BPOL.

Though total retail sales declined slightly, less than one percent, total dollar volume rose by over four percent, and revenue to the Town's treasury climbed by 1.34 percent for a total of $1.283 million in BPOL tax revenue.

“I was surprised it was this good,” Spates told The Herald on Monday. “I really expected it to be a little lower.”

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Grocery stores saw business rise from $60.1 million to $60.8 in 2012.

“It's kind of interesting to look at them. Grocery stores were up. Of course,” Spates observed, “I find that interesting in light of what Kroger's doing.”

Kroger is closing its Farmville store effective May 21, saying the local store “is not profitable.”

Restaurants, meanwhile, experienced a nearly one million-dollar rise in business, from $38.988 million in 2011 to $39.984 million last year.

Spates was impressed by the strength of those restaurant totals, “even though we had two (restaurants) close down and one got burnt down,” he pointed out.

The category of retail automotive sales, which includes car sales and service stations, saw sales totals rise by over three million dollars, up to $73.675 million.

The category of “other retail sales” dropped from $181 million to $173 million.

Contractors saw $49 million in business, a dramatic increase over the $23 million total of 2011, much of that related to Longwood University building projects.

Motels did over $4.4 million in business, a slight increase, while the category of “all other business” was virtually unchanged-$74.776 million in 2011 and $74.780 last year.

Total dollar volume, meanwhile, rose to more than $536 million, compared with $515 million two years ago.

“Which is, I think, pretty good,” Spates said, ahead of his presentation of the figures to Town Council Wednesday night.

The town manager believes the retail sales report reflects well on the fundamental strength of the local economy, an economy blessed to be anchored by key major contributors, such as Longwood, Centra Southside Community Hospital and, on the purely retail level, Green Front Furniture.

“I think it's holding its own,” Spates said of Farmville's economy. “I don't think the economy's fully recovered but I think the university adds a lot to that.”

Town officials certainly believe the BPOL tax adds a lot to the Town of Farmville's budget and are loathe to see the General Assembly, which makes overtures of doing so every year, do away with or change the BPOL tax.

“That's right. If we didn't have that, I don't know what we'd do,” Spates said, noting the nearly $1.3 million in revenue received by the Town from last year's retail sales.

“To make that up in real estate tax,” he noted, “we'd have to more than double our real estate tax.”

Speaker of the House of Delegates William J. Howell introduced House Joint Resolution 755, calling for the elimination of the BPOL tax, in this year's General Assembly session.

His original legislation would have tasked the Virginia Small Business Commission and the Virginia Manufacturing Development Commission to evaluate and develop a plan for tax restructuring, the restructuring of all local taxes at next year's 2014 legislative session.

The Speaker's BPOL legislation, however, was “passed by indefinitely” in the Senate's Rules Committee, meaning it was killed, and after passing the House of Delegates 95-0.