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City projects 22 percent increase in sales tax revenue

Addition of McCaulou’s and rising gas prices contribute, officials say
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn is projected to have a 22 percent increase in sales tax revenue this year — one sign the local economy may be on the upswing, according to Andy Heath, administrative services manager for the city. “That is primarily due to a betterment of the economy, particularly in retail and gas prices, obviously,” Heath said. “This is the first increase in awhile.” Last year the city’s sales tax revenue was $1,808,902. This year, Heath said the projections for sales tax revenue were increased by $50,000 from the original projection at the mid year fiscal review to $2,210,000 because of better than expected sales in the city so far. Auburn Mayor Keith Nesbitt said improvements and the addition of new retail establishments may account for part of the increase, while local business owners say they agree they have seen better sales this year. The addition of the department store McCaulou’s on Elm Avenue could be one reason for their increased sales, they say. “The economy in Auburn is really starting to recover at least for the time being,” Nesbitt said. “Some of the improvements we have made around Central Square have helped. We have really focused on marketing to get people into town.” Nesbitt said he believes the addition of McCaulou’s and the rise of gas prices are also factors in higher sales tax revenues. Heath confirmed that overall retail sales figures in Auburn have climbed this year. Sandie Neel, owner of Country Naturals Wellness Center, said the addition of McCaulou’s has increased foot traffic to the Auburn Town Center shopping center, which her store is also located in. “We are starting to have better sales,” Neel said. “I think it may be because McCaulou’s came in and empty spaces filled up.” She said she has also seen other indications the economy is improving overall. “Even my loyal customers are spending more,” Neel said. Judith Gordon-Lawson has been the owner of Mountain Mama Clothing for nearly 40 years. She said she attributes the rise in sales tax revenue to a combination of factors. “Things are on the upswing and people are definitely more apt to purchase the newer items, rather than always going to the sale racks,” Gordon-Lawson said. The foothills may be having a slower recovery than the cities, though, she said. “I think it trickles down a little a slower to the foothills, maybe the cities see it a little faster,” Gordon-Lawson said. “I can’t say I definitely feel a huge relief and it’s over, but I do feel optimistic.” One reason for her optimism is the shopping center filling up since the addition of McCaulou’s last year, she said. Two more stores, a clothing exchange and mail store are expected to open soon. “There definitely seems to be more people around now that we have the shopping center filling up,” Gordon-Lawson said. David McCaulou was out of town and unavailable for comment Wednesday. Nesbitt said all things considered, the rise in sales tax revenue is a positive sign for the community. “Across the board Auburn is doing better,” Nesbitt said. Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.