Merchant Sales Up 9.3 Percent In July

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Nevada merchants opened the fiscal year by selling $2.95 billion worth of goods in July for a 9.3 percent gain over the same month a year earlier, the state Taxation Department said Wednesday.

The sales generated $213.5 million in sales and use taxes for state and county governments and schools, up 10.3 percent. The state's share amounts to nearly $60 million.

Gov. Kenny Guinn said the sales activity was above expectations and indicates Nevada is slowly recuperating from the Iraq war impact and slow economy of the past few years - but "it is too early to predict what the remainder of the fiscal year will bring."

The growth in the tax take hit 10.3 percent in part because of recent legislation that reduced the amount merchants can keep for collecting the sales taxes. Also, Washoe County increased its tax rate July 1. Without those changes, the tax increase would have been just over 8 percent.

However, Chuck Chinnock, executive director of the state Taxation Department, said the actual growth of 9.3 percent in merchant sales is a good economic sign.

Some of the largest increases in sales were realized by car dealers and fuel stations, up 14.5 percent; clothing stores, up 10.3 percent; bars and restaurants, up 9.4 percent; building materials, up 9.7 percent; and general merchandise, up 8.3 percent.

The report on sales follows a recent report from the state Gaming Control Board showing that Nevada casinos won $825.5 million in July for a 2.6 percent increase. Gambling and sales taxes account for three-quarters of the Nevada's general fund revenue.

A breakdown of the July sales shows that taxable sales grew in Clark County, encompassing Las Vegas, by 10.6 percent to $2.13 billion. Washoe County, encompassing Reno, was up 7.4 percent with sales totaling $484.2 million.

Tiny Esmeralda County had the biggest increase, up 145 percent to $933,336. Elko County was up 6.6 percent to $63.4 million; Carson City was up 2.1 percent to $78.3 million; Douglas County was up 9.9 percent to $61.7 million; and White Pine County was up 1.3 percent to $6.7 million.

Five counties reported declines, including Humboldt with an 8.5 percent slump to $24.2 million. Pershing County was low for the state, down 30.4 percent to $4.5 million.