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

WESLACO, Texas – Matt Ruszczak has reported incredibly positive sales tax revenue numbers for the Rio Grande Valley for the month of September. 

The executive director of Rio South Texas Economic Council said he was not expecting to see the growth in spending that occurred and he is not sure why it is happening.

“Overall, a really, really strong report in November, which reflects the September 2020 sales,” Ruszczak said. “The sales tax numbers are really quite impressive.”

Ruszczak analyzes the numbers from data collated by the Texas Comptroller’s Office. 

For September, sales tax revenues for Texas as a whole were up 6.07 percent, as compared to the same month a year ago. “Quite a strong number, a good performance in COVID times,” Ruszczak said.

Webb County’s sales tax revenues were up 7.02 percent in September, as compared to the same month a year ago. “A good number,” Ruszczak said. Nueces County’s sales tax revenues were up 5.18 percent. “Also a pretty good number,” he said. 

But, counties in the Rio Grande Valley outperformed each of them.

Willacy County’s sales tax revenues in September were up 9.49 percent. “A really good number,” Ruszczak said. Starr County posted a 19.07 percent increase. “A very, very strong number,” he said. Cameron County did even better, up 20.84 percent. And Hidalgo County, the Valley’s largest retail market, showed a very solid 13.32 percent increase.

The Valley as a whole showed a 15.72 percent increase in sales tax revenues in September. 

“That is a fantastic number. That is two and half times the improvement the state saw for the same month,” Ruszczak said. “Still, the bridges are closed, and with the headwinds from the pandemic and the unemployment reports, that is a brilliant number.”

Ruszczak pointed out that the Labor Day weekend was in August in 2019, and September in 2020. However, that cannot be the reason for such a big improvement in in retail sales, he said. 

Looking at the individual cities, Raymondville’s sales tax revenue collections were up 15.47 percent in September, while Rio Grande City’s increase was 19.8 percent. “A very strong performance,” Ruszczak said. 

In Cameron County, Port Isabel’s increase in September was 9.06 percent, while South Padre Island’s was up 30.8 percent. “South Padre did extremely well, a really a fantastic result,” Ruszczak said. 

San Benito’s sales tax revenue collections in September saw an increase of 16.85 percent. Harlingen’s was up 16.27 percent, and Brownsville saw a 25.43 percent improvement. “Tremendous growth,” Ruszczak said.

In Hidalgo County, Edinburg’s sales tax revenue collections in September saw an increase of 16.97 percent. Mission’s was up 13.99, and Weslaco’s was up 14.64 percent. “That is a very good number,” sales tax revenue collections in September saw an increase of  said.

Pharr’s increase was 21.54 percent, while McAllen’s was up 9.53 percent. Mercedes, which has suffered due to shoppers being unable to cross from Mexico, was down 3.46 percent. However, even that number is “quite remarkable,” Ruszczak said, because the city has been posting declines of ten to 20 percent. 

Looking at the year to date figures, covering 11 months, Cameron County’s sales tax revenue collections are up 2.14 percent. Willacy County has seen a 3.61 percent increase. Starr County has seen a 7.76 percent increase. And Hidalgo County has seen a 0.46 percent increase.

Texas as a whole has seen a 0.63 increase in sales tax revenue collections, year to date. Webb County has seen a drop of 3.95 percent over the same period, and Nueces County has seen a drop of 3.36 percent.

The Valley as a whole has seen a 1.16 percent increase in sales tax revenue collections, year to date. 

“All headwinds considered a very good year, so far,” Ruszczak said. “I did not expect these numbers, I really don’t know where these numbers are coming from. But it is encouraging. It looks like the local consumer continues to have buying power and continues to have the ability to spend the money and move forward.”

Ruszczak noted that the Christmas period has a huge impact on retail sales. “Knocking on wood here, hopefully this trend will continue. But, so far so good. We are outperforming tremendously.”

Here is a podcast of our interview with Matt Ruszczak:

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows a retail store on South Padre Island.

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