HOUMA, La. — Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes saw a combined increase of more than $11.5 million in sales tax revenues last year, a sign that the local economy may be improving.
Local sales taxes are divided between parish government, law enforcement and levee, road and school districts.
According to totals from the Terrebonne Sales and Use Tax Department, Terrebonne Parish collected about $120 million last year. That’s a $3.7 million increase from 2017.
This is the second year in a row of increased sales tax revenue for Terrebonne.
Lafourche’s gains were even stronger. According to monthly collection totals reported by the Lafourche School Board’s Sales Tax Department, the parish collected about $80.2 million in 2018, a $7.8 million increase.
This is the first increase the parish has seen in at least four years and brings collections back up to the level seen in 2015.
“An increase is sales tax revenue means a better, stronger and more viable Lafourche. We continue to promote #buylocal and are grateful to wait for a table to dine in our restaurants,” Lafourche Chamber of Commerce CEO Lin Kiger said.
“We have continued to witness an increase in trucks on our highways and are hopeful that this activity only adds to the sales tax collection in 2019 and beyond,” Kiger said. “We look forward to more jobs and opportunities and growth on the horizon.”
The last time the parish broke $80 million was in 2014 when it collected about $83.2 million. Since the economic downturn, Lafourche sales tax collections reached a low of $72.4 million in 2017.
“As always, it is our hope to see collections continue to grow — allowing additional dollars for infrastructure, education and tourism throughout our parish,” Thibodaux Chamber of Commerce CEO Tammy Ledet said.
Terrebonne’s lowest point in recent years was $98.5 million in 2010.
The sales tax numbers are starting to match up with other economic indicators, said Matt Rookard, Terrebonne Economic Development Authority CEO.
Local unemployment numbers started to stabilize at the end of 2018, signaling the beginning of the slow recovery cycle, he said.
“The increased sales tax revenue is a good sign that our economy is going in a positive direction,” said Nicol Blanchard, Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce CEO. “Consumers are enjoying the low gas prices allowing them to have more spendable income while the oil and gas industry becomes more efficient and optimistic when planning for the future. The chamber is encouraged by this growth and hopes that it continues.”
In the future, 2017 will probably be known as one of the toughest economic years as the area stayed at the bottom of the down cycle, Rookard said.
“We were at the bottom and stayed there for a significant time,” Rookard said. “I do think there’s a recovery coming.”
As the job market stabilizes, consumer confidence will increase, and that drives sales taxes, he said.
As TEDA continues to look for new development opportunities, companies are pivoting from getting by to planning for growth.