County sales tax exceeds expectations

The Ector County Assistance District’s sales tax check from the state surpassed county projections, totaling more than $1.7 million for April collections.
The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts began sending checks to the county on a monthly basis this year, similar to the City of Odessa, but the assistance district sales tax did not go into effect officially until April 1.
The June check is the first to showcase the full amount generated by businesses within the district.
Ector County Judge Debi Hays said the $1.7 million in sales tax was more than the county expected to receive. She said the amount could be a reflection of the continued growth that has transpired in both the county and city since the assistance district was created.
In November, county residents approved a proposition to levy a sales tax of 1.25 cents per dollar and create an assistance district in all of Ector County outside the city limits of Odessa and Goldsmith.
Ector County Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Simmons said the amount the county received this month could be on the higher end of original estimates due to the strong economy of the Permian Basin.
County commissioners told voters during the election cycle that checks could add $12-$15 million annually to the county’s budget. Hays said a more conservative ballpark figure would equate to about $3 million each quarter, but the county’s June check puts them on track to bring in even more revenue.
“I think the key is to try and budget it conservatively that way if and when things drop off we’re not putting ourselves in a bind of not having the same income we thought,” Simmons said. “I’d rather budget more conservatively based on $10-$12 million, maybe $15 million at the most, and if things come in better than that then we have additional funds we can deploy later.”
He said the sales tax check gives officials a better picture of how to budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Hays said she does not anticipate the growth of the county slowing down during the next budget cycle. She said the Commissioners’ Court will use the next few checks to gauge what the county might collect during a full year and incorporate those funds into the county budget.
The local government code for county assistance districts states revenue generated can only be used within the boundaries it is collected in. The tax can only go toward funding certain items like those focused on during the public forums, which included adding law enforcement, repairing deteriorating roads and combating illegal dumping.
“It really excites me just because the people that are in West Odessa, south Odessa and Gardendale are in such need of infrastructural improvements,” Hays said. “It just pleases my heart that they recognized that his was a way in which the county could address their needs.”