Economic activity.TIF

A study looking at the economic activity during the pandemic shows that Burnett County was one of 14 counties that saw taxable sales go up during the state’s Safer at Home order. The study also states that rural counties saw less of a drop in sales than urban counties across Wisconsin.

Forward Analytics put together the study titled, “Economic Activity in a Pandemic: Wisconsin taxable sales in March and April” written by Dale Knapp Forward Analytics director. and released their findings recently. The study was put together with data from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

The executive summary states, “taxable sales in Wisconsin declined 10.5% in March and April compared to the same months in 2019.” The Department of Revenue stated the total amount dropped from $884 million in 2019 to $791 million in 2020.

Those months represent the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic which led to a halt in global economies. In Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order was issued on March 25, which limited interaction amongst people to slow the spread of the disease and continued into May.

“These orders were implemented in a time of uncertainty,” Knapp wrote. “Virologists were continuing to learn about the lethality and transmissibility of the virus. Economists knew these orders would have major economic impacts but were unsure of the severity or length of the effects.”

Burnett County Chairman Don Taylor said the report’s findings were, “A little baffling, but we’ll take it” when discussing the uptick in sales tax collected across the county.

Other Supervisors gave their opinions on these statistics in the report including speculation surrounding more people shopping in Burnett County than heading to West or East to big box stores. There was also talk of home improvement.

Across the county, the total sales tax collected went up 6.9% from 2019 to 2020. Retail sales went up 19%, information sales, including technology sales like computers, went up 11.4% and wholesale trade, like timber and home improvement materials, went up 12.5%.

Supervisor Dorothy Richards said that she heard Bass Lake Lumber has never been this busy.

Polk County was also one of the 14 counties seeing more sales tax earlier this year than last year. Polk’s sales tax rose 7% with a 16% increase in retail, a 13% increase in wholesale trade tax and a 3% rise in information sales tax.

St. Croix County saw a decrease over that same time frame with a 2% overall decrease in sales tax and retail sales tax went down 14%. However, information sales tax and wholesale trade tax went up 5% and 10%, respectively.

Statewide accommodation and food service sales dropped about 46%, but in Polk County, the drop was less than 30%. Across Wisconsin retail sales dropped about 5%, but Burnett and Polk both saw increases in this category.

The biggest decreases across the state were in accommodation with sales taxes from hotels and motels dropping over 64% from 2019 to 2020.

“The sales data show there was an urban/rural component to the changes,” Knapp wrote. “As a group, urban counties saw a decline of 11.9 % while rural counties experienced a drop of 6.5%.”