As promised, here is some more analysis, including a couple of graphs, of Alameda’s Quarterly Sales Tax report, for the quarter ended December 31, 2008, which is the most recent data available from the State. City staff will present the report to Council tonight.
As we did last quarter, we graphed the quarterly change in sales tax receipts for the Park Street South of Lincoln District – the one where the Alameda Civic Center Parking Structure and the Alameda Theater and Cineplex reside.
The three white bars on the right represent periods after the parking garage opened in February of 2008. You can see that save for the most recent quarter – a significant drop of 15.3% – the year-over-year change in sales tax receipts after the parking garage has mostly been in line with previous quarters without the garage and cineplex. The precipitous 15.3% drop in the fourth quarter of 2008 is no doubt attributable to the pull-back in consumer spending – the quarter includes the time period immediately after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, government bailout of AIG and steep drops in the stock market.
No doubt apologists for the financially less-than-stellar cineplex/parking garage would say that the drop would have been worse, if not for the $40 million complex. But a look at a second graph suggests that isn’t true.
This chart shows that the cineplex district’s overall share of sales tax receipts remains in a narrow range from 10.4% to 12.6%, as it has done since the beginning of 2006, well before the parking garage and cineplex were built. If the garage/cineplex were such a big driver of retail sales tax revenue as promised, then we would expect to see this district’s share of sales tax revenue growing relative to, say, the comparable Webster Street retail district, or any of the other tax districts in Alameda, all of which would be affected in some way by the economic downturn. But we don’t see that, so we infer that the cineplex isn’t really driving any new sales tax revenue at all – just shifting it around. And remember, movie tickets aren’t taxable.
The one bright spot in the report is Harbor Bay Business Park, which realized a whopping 165.2% same-quarter, year-over-year increase in business-to-business (B2b) sales tax for the quarter ended December 31, 2008, due to new businesses in the business park. We’ve long encouraged the City of Alameda to shift their focus from retail to B2B sales tax by bringing in new businesses, light industry – and jobs – to Alameda. City Council, and voters, would do well to take note of this when looking at SunCal’s housing/retail sales tax-focused proposal for Alameda Point – a better plan would put more emphasis on bringing light industry, and B2B sales tax revenue to Alameda Point.