EDINBURG, Texas – Just as it did throughout 2019, the Rio Grande Valley outperformed the state of Texas for sales tax revenues during the current reporting period.

The data on sales taxes is collated by the Texas Comptroller’s Office. The most recent report, for January 2020, covers sales tax revenues for November 2019.

“Last year, the Valley outperformed the growth rate of the state by a two to one margin. The state grew by roughly four percent. Our growth rate in the region bounced around seven and eight percent. We had a really good performance,” said Matt Ruszczak, executive director of Rio South Texas Economic Council.

Each month, Ruszczak analyzes the sales tax revenue figures for the RSTEC board of directors, the Rio Grande Guardian and 710 News Talk KURV. (Editor’s Note: Ruszczak’s analysis can be found in the attached podcast)

“Now we are looking at the January report, which reflects November’s sales and we see the same trends as 2019,” Ruszczak said.

“If you look at the State of Texas’ number for the month of November, the growth was 3.86 percent, compared to the same month in 2018. A good, strong number when you consider inflation fluctuates around two percent. When you are growing at four percent you have good, healthy, growth. If you look at the Valley number over the four counties combined, our growth rate was 7.74 percent, compared to the same month in 2018.”

Ruszczak said this represented “a good, good, strong number for the Valley.” He also pointed out that November is the kickoff for the Christmas season. “It was a good start to the Christmas season,” he said.

Matt Ruszczak, executive director of Rio South Texas Economic Council.

Looking at the Valley’s four counties, Ruszczak reported that Cameron County’s sales tax revenues grew 4.44 percent in November, as compared to the same month in 2018.. Willacy County’s was down 1.3 percent. Hidalgo County’s was up 9.22 percent. And Starr County’s was up 10.97 percent.

“Hidalgo County’s was a stellar number, almost double digit growth. A very exciting figure to see,” Ruszczak said. “As we go further west we actually break the double digit barrier.”

Looking at the individual cities in Cameron County, Harlingen’s sale tax revenues for November 2019 were up 6.78, as compared to November 2018. Port Isabel’s were up 13.33 percent. San Benito’s were up 21.34 percent, and South Padre Islands’s were up  11.12 percent.

The only major city in Cameron County that did not see sales tax revenue growth in November was Brownsville. It was 0.14 percent down on November, 2018.

Ruszczak said he was particularly pleased to see the upward tick in South Padre Island.

“Usually when South Padre Island is doing well it means there is plenty of local money moving around, because locals have an impact on the South Padre economy. It also means we have a health tourism sector,” he said.

Ruszczak said the dip in Willacy County was caused by the numbers for its largest city.

“Raymondville had a decline of 3.38 percent. They have actually been fluctuating up and down the past few months. So I would not read too much into a single monthly report. I am looking at the overall trend line and it is a little choppy. We will see how it shakes out over time.”

The sales tax revenue figures for Hidalgo County communities were much more encouraging.

Edinburg showed a16.79 percent increase, McAllen 4.26 percent, Mercedes 3.86 percent, Mission 11.28 percent, Pharr 9.92 percent, and Weslaco 11.94 percent.

“I use Weslaco as the bellwether for Hidalgo County. I like to call Weslaco the Steady Eddie. They usually grow around five percent. When you see Weslaco break out into double digits, it means it was a really good month for Hidalgo County,” Ruszczak said.

The sales tax revenue figures from Starr County for November 2019 were even more impressive, Ruszczak reported, with Rio Grande City up 14.84 percent on the same month in 2018. “That is a a good strong number,” he said.

Ruszczak said the Valley was in good company, with other border communities doing well.

Webb County was up 8.5 percent, Maverick County, which includes Eagle Pass, was up 9.45 percent, Val Verde County, which includes Del Rio, was up 11.28 percent, and El Paso County was 6.22 percent.

“The border overall had a very good month. The border region outperformed the state’s performance for this month. It is a good sign and a good start to the Christmas season,” Ruszczak said.

He added: “Last year was good also, so we are working off a much higher base number. It is encouraging to see another strong growth number. We are building strength on strength. That is always good to see, that there is momentum in the marketplace and in the economy. People need to be cautiously optimistic. This is a great start and I will take it.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows an entrance to The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, the largest shopping mall in Edinburg, Texas.