MCALLEN, RGV – Amazing and astonishing are just a couple of the adjectives Matt Ruszczak uses to describe the latest sales tax revenue figures for the Rio Grande Valley.

However, the executive director of Rio South Texas Economic Council issues a few words of caution: “We should not get spoiled by this level of growth. Over time these things might balance out. We are not likely to see 20 percent growth every month. But, nevertheless, it is exciting.”

The latest report from the Comptroller’s Office shows sales tax revenues figures for Mercedes up an astonishing 49.83 percent. For McAllen the increase is an amazing 24.64 percent. 

The figures are for October 2018 in comparison to the same month in 2017.

“In Cameron County sales tax revenues are up 11.96 percent. That is a very, very, good performance. A really strong month,” Ruszczak said. 

“Harlingen is up 3.67 percent; Port Isabel up 6.6 percent; San Benito up 4.84 percent; and, the main driver in Cameron County, Brownsville is up 20.14 percent. Brownsville had an extremely strong month.”

Ruszczak crunches the Comptroller’s numbers every month. He said the only community that was down in Cameron County in October 2018, as compared to October 2017, was South Padre Island, which was down 1.39 percent. “Some early cold fronts may have influenced those numbers,” he said.

In Hidalgo County, the percentage increases were even better.

“If you are in your car, make sure you have your set belt fastened. Hidalgo County is up an incredible 22.93 percent,” Ruszczak said.

“There are multiple drivers for these numbers. Weslaco is up 18.6 percent. That is a very strong number because Weslaco usually has steady growth. Pharr is up 19.8 percent; Edinburg 23.54 percent; Mission is up 23.75 percent; and McAllen is up an amazing 24.64 percent. Mercedes is up an astonishing 49.83 percent.”

Combining Hidalgo and Cameron counties, the growth in sales tax revenues for October 2018, as compared to a year ago, is 19.27 percent. This compared favorably with other border counties, Ruszczak noted.

“Webb County, which includes Laredo, is up 11.11 percent; Nueces County, which includes Corpus Christi, is up 9.62 percent; El Paso is up 0.98 percent, Maverick County, which includes Eagle Pass, is up 16.9 percent, and Val Verde County, which includes Del Rio, is 21.93 percent.”

The statewide average is 10.06 percent. 

“These numbers show the border region’s economy as a whole is strong. It is an exciting report. We have not seen these numbers for a very long time, if ever,” Ruszczak said.

“However, we must not get spoiled by these numbers and think they will happen every month. Nonetheless, there is good reason to be positive about these numbers. It is a good sign for our economy.”

Ruszczak said the October report has become an exclamation point on a good annual report. “The economy is doing well and October is a continuation of that. Last October was not bad but it was flat, it was mixed. There was a lot of room to jump.”

Asked for his explanation as to why sales tax revenue figures are so healthy, Ruszczak offered this analysis:

“It could be an ongoing trend of earlier and earlier Christmas season shopping, with some people making their purchases in the month of October. Our Mexican shoppers may have been front-loading. I am going speculate here that maybe some of our neighbors from down south front-loaded some of their shopping. In October there was a lot of discussion about the status of the border with the upcoming election, there was a new president coming into office in Mexico, and the peso was in a good range, between 18.8 and 20.2. Maybe some folks decided they would make some purchases early.”

Ruszczak added: ”We are excited about these numbers. October was a very strong month and an exclamation point on a strong year.”

Editor’s Note: Matt Ruszczak’s analysis on sales tax revenues for the year ending October 2018 will be posted in our Saturday, Dec. 29, edition.