WESLACO, TEXAS – Matt Ruszczak’s end-of-year report for sales tax revenue activity in the Rio Grande Valley shows the region outperformed the state of Texas. 

Every month the executive director of Rio South Texas Economic Council analyzes numbers put out by the Texas Comptroller’s Office. 

His most recent report looked at sales tax revenue collections from November 2019 to October 2020. While Texas as a whole saw a 0.36 percent increase in collections in this period, the figure for the Valley was even better. The region recorded a 1.23 percent increase. 

“That is strong result, all things considered,” Ruszczak said, referencing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

All four counties in the Valley recorded more sales tax revenue collections over the past 12 months. Cameron County was up 2.03 percent. Willacy County was up 3.1 percent. Hidalgo County was up 0.63 percent. And Starr County was up 7.66 percent.

Looking at individual cities in Cameron County, Brownsville saw a 1.28 percent increase, Harlingen a 1.09 percent increase, Port Isabel a 0.18 percent increase, and San Benito a 12.55 percent increase. The main drag on the county’s numbers was South Padre Island, which saw a 4.2 percent decrease. 

In Willacy County, the biggest city, Raymondville, saw a 4.49 percent increase in sales tax collections in the 12-month, Nov. 2019-Oct. 2020 period.

In Hidalgo County, Edinburg saw a 3.21 percent increase, Mission a 1.05 percent increase, Pharr a 2.81 percent increase, and Weslaco a 5.54 percent increase. 

The two major cities in Hidalgo County that saw a decline both rely more heavily on Mexican shoppers. McAllen’s sales tax revenue collections were down 3.79 percent. Mercedes saw a drop of 16.16 percent. Mexican shoppers have not been able to cross into the United States since last March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In Starr County, Rio Grande City’s sales tax revenue collections were up 8.38 percent.

Ruszczak pointed out that 36 of the 44 cities in the Valley saw an increase in sales tax collections, with 23 recording increases of five percent or more. “For 2020 that is outstanding,” Ruszczak said, referencing the challenges posed to economic activity by COVID-19.

Ruszczak noted that eight of the cities in the Valley saw sales tax revenue collections grow by more than 20 percent. “They were the beneficiaries of the COVID shift we have been talking about,” he said. “Instead of going to a destination city, people are shopping closer to home.”

What makes the numbers all the more impressive, Ruszczak said, is that most of 2020 has seen Mexican nationals blocked from shopping in the Valley.

“We had rising unemployment, closure of the bridges, the health emergency, a month long shelter in place order,” Ruszczak said. He said had he been asked at the start of the coronavirus pandemic how well the Valley might fare economically, he would have put money on a negative sales tax revenue collections number. 

“I would have underestimated the value of the local consumer,” he said.

“This sets us up for a good recovery. I am going to be a cautious optimist. The local consumer is impressive.”

Editor’s Note: The above news story and podcast is the second in a two-part series featuring the analysis of Matt Ruszczak, executive director of Rio South Texas Economic Council. Click here to read and listen to Part One.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story and podcast shows Matt Ruszczak, executive director of Rio South Texas Economic Council.

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