Even during a pandemic, Hendersonville has seen local sales tax revenue increase substantially over last year. TENA LEE

Despite a global pandemic, Hendersonville’s local sales tax revenue has exceeded the previous year’s revenue by more than $600,000 – the largest year over year increase in recent memory.

Mayor Jamie Clary says that’s good news for the city, and attributes the larger than expected revenue in part to residents spending their money closer to home during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Rather than going to Nashville for a dinner or night out, many people have stayed closer to home and supported our local businesses, and I think that has helped tremendously,” said Clary.

He credits local shop and eat local campaigns by the Hendersonville Chamber of Commerce and on social media sites like Eat Hendersonville as contributing factors as well.

The city has seen a steady increase in local sales tax revenue for several years. In the first five months of the 2016 fiscal year, it received $4.7 million. It inched to $4.8 million during the same time period in 2017. By the 2020 fiscal year, the city had received $5.8 million in the first five months. This fiscal year that number is at $6.4 million.

Hendersonville Finance Director Robert Manning says several factors have led to the increase, including federal stimulus checks that were sent in April of 2020.

“This combined with limited traveling options throughout the summer and fall months, (not to mention the lack of major sporting events, entertainment shows, etc.) has left many households with a surplus of disposable income,” he said. “Another likely attributing factor is that the majority of the ‘shut down’ period occurred prior to the start of the fiscal year, which allowed businesses to remain open with some variations as the year progressed.”

Whatever the reason, Ward 3 Alderman Arlene Cunningham, who has chaired the city’s Finance Committee for several years, agrees it’s good news for the city.

Clary and Cunningham seem to differ in their opinion about how that money should be spent, however.

Clary, who made improving infrastructure like city roads a focus of his re-election campaign, says he’ll ask city leaders to amend the current fiscal year budget so that the money can be used for paving projects. The amendment will require two votes by the city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Cunningham said she agrees with the need to pave more roads, but would like to see improving the city’s general fund become a priority as well.  

The city’s general fund, used for both operating expenses and as a “rainy day fund,” sits at an average of around $3 million to $4 million while a city the size of Hendersonville should have around $8 million, Cunningham said.

“The [state] Comptroller’s office has suggested that we set a policy to reach a certain goal [of how much should be in the general fund], and we’re working on that now,” she said. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”

The city currently has $2.8 million to spend on paving from state and local sources, according to Finance Director Robert Manning. It has spent around $785,000 this fiscal year with paving projects currently on hold during the winter due to cold weather, he added.

It varies from year to year how much city leaders budget, and eventually spend on paving. Here are estimates provided by Manning for the last three fiscal years:

*2018 - $2.8 million budgeted; $1.1 million spent

*2019 - $2.3 million budgeted; $1.1 million spent

*2020 - $3.3 million budgeted; $2.6 million spent