Shopping Local Yields Results
If you’ve heard the term, “shop local” and wondered why it mattered, take a moment to consider this. Shopping local yields results. It is more than just a nice catch phrase or tag line. If you are deliberate in your shopping habits, you can play a significant part in helping your community, its economy, and your pocketbook.
First, the numbers: Shopping local means your tax dollars stay local to provide critical services to the community. From library services and parks to pavement, fire prevention, and police protection, all are supported in part by our local sales tax. In Texas, sales tax is 8.25 percent and is collected whenever you purchase retail items or eat out in a restaurant. Groceries and agricultural items are typically exempt from this tax, but of this 8.25 percent only 2 percent stays local. In Atlanta, 1 percent goes to the general fund to support city services, such as police, fire and public works, and the other 1 percent is dedicated to economic development activities split equally between the Atlanta Economic Development Corporation (AEDC), which is responsible for industrial development, and the Atlanta City Development Corporation (ACDC), which handles retail development and downtown. For example, if you and a friend buy lunch and spend $25 on food, your local tax will be $.50 with .25 cents going to city services and .25 cents going to economic development. If you buy a pair of shoes for $100 at a local retailer, you’ll pay $2.00 in local sales tax with $1.00 going to city services and $1.00 to economic development. Compounded over the more than 5,000 residents we have in our community, and those who travel to Atlanta to shop from outside the city limits; those dollars add up! We closely track our sales tax numbers as an indicator of how healthy our local economy is, and I’m pleased to report the numbers are good. Over the last nine months we’ve seen an average of 5.3 percent growth, or an increase of about $3,700 dollars a month year over year. That’s strong, steady growth!
When you shop local, you help the local economy. Buying local supports the local businesses and entrepreneurs who in turn hire local employees. Those businesses you patronize are the same ones that sponsor youth activities, participate in community events, and help keep our local economy thriving. Successful businesses draw more business and hire more people. Many people live in Atlanta but work out of town. I am a lifelong resident of Atlanta but for many years worked in a neighboring city. When I got a job in Atlanta I saved thousands personally, on vehicle and fuel expenses each year. Working in Atlanta also changed my spending habits. Now, when I go to lunch, it’s in an Atlanta restaurant. When I need something from the store, I buy it in Atlanta. Working in Atlanta not only saved me money, but it brought more of the money I spent back home. If you work out of town, be deliberate in your shopping and wait until you get back to Atlanta before you get those supplies from the store. Every little bit helps. If you can’t find what you need in a traditional brick and mortar store locally, buy it online, but be diligent about which vendors you use. Amazon and many other online retailers now remit sales tax based on the delivery address. So, if you buy a pair of shoes and have them delivered to your home in Atlanta, the sales tax follows the purchase to the point of delivery.
Shopping local saves you money in two ways. The more income generated from local sales tax, the less reliant the city is on property taxes, which helps everyone, whether you’re a homeowner or a renter. A healthy retail economy helps the City of Atlanta keep our property tax rates from increasing. Property tax reform was a big part of the recent Texas legislative session. Increasing values on property in Texas have caused skyrocketing property tax bills in large metropolitan areas. The new law aims to slow that increase by capping the rates cities can increase their property tax. If a city wants to increase over 3.5 percent, it will trigger an election for voter approval. In the case of Atlanta, where our budget and land valuations are relatively small, the election expenses would likely exceed the results of the increased revenue. This means we will rely even more on local sales tax keep our property tax low.
Let me paint a picture: If you travel to Shreveport, Dallas, or Little Rock you are increasing the cost of the items you purchase by your time and transportation expenses. That $100 you spent on shoes in my previous example becomes $300 with gas and mileage, meals, snacks on the road and other expenses, not to mention your valuable time. That bargain shopping in DFW isn’t much of a bargain if you consider the 350-mile round trip, six hours on the road, and other ancillary expenses. A shopping trip to Dallas, while it can be fun, and adventurous, also takes revenue from local businesses and sales tax out of local budgets. That same $100 takes money out of our local economy and redirects it to another community. So, the next time you take out your wallet or start making your shopping list, think local and remember how your individual spending habits have a tremendous ripple effect across our community and our local economy. Please consider the results yielded by shopping local.