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McClatchy-Tribune  07/31/2014 5:02 PM ET
Fillmore skews county's first-quarter taxable sales [Ventura County Star, Calif. :: ]

July 31--Ventura County's first-quarter taxable sales increased by 7.9 percent compared with the same period last year, but the boost was artificially skewed by Fillmore's resolution of a sales tax dispute.

Fillmore's taxable sales from January through March rose by a steep 1,173 percent, largely because of a hefty $1.85 million allocation -- much of that past sales tax revenue unfrozen by the state Board of Equalization.

With Fillmore out of the equation, the county's first-quarter taxable sales would have grown by a modest 2 percent, said Andy Nickerson, president of HdL Cos. The Los Angeles County firm is the sales tax analyst for most Ventura County cities.

Ventura County has not had a down quarter for at least three years as the economy has rebounded from the economic downturn.

"The trend overall is very positive," CSU Channel Islands economist Sung Won Sohn said Wednesday.

Southern California's first-quarter taxable sales grew by 3.8 percent, while the state's were up 3.7 percent.

After Fillmore, unincorporated areas had the next highest growth in first-quarter sales, at 21.5 percent.

They were followed by Santa Paula, with a 6.7 percent hike; Ojai, 4.9 percent; Oxnard, 4.6 percent; Thousand Oaks, 3.8 percent; Ventura, 1.5 percent; and Moorpark, 1.1 percent.

In negative territory were Camarillo, with a 3.8 percent decrease; Simi Valley, 4.1 percent; and Port Hueneme, 5.7 percent.

Among the county's sectors, business and industry jumped the most in the first quarter, by 48.4 percent, although it was chiefly an aberration caused by the large allocation of unfrozen sales tax revenue to Fillmore.

Building and construction was up 19.1 percent; and autos and transportation, 11.3 percent.

"Sales of new automobiles were up 7.9 percent, stimulated by pent-up demand, consumers' interest in new feature-rich models and easy financing options," Nickerson said. "Used auto sales increased by 14.9 percent."

The restaurants and hotels sector was up by 8.5 percent, with the strongest growth coming from casual dining establishments, Nickerson said.

Fuel and service station sales were down 0.5 percent. General consumer goods dipped 4.1 percent, which California Lutheran University economist Bill Watkins called interesting.

"It seems to be a regional thing in Southern California," he said. "This is worth watching as we go forward."

Fillmore last year resolved a dispute with Industry, Lathrop, Livermore and San Joaquin County over sales tax revenue generated by a national medical supply company with a sales office in Fillmore. That led the equalization board to start unfreezing revenue stemming from sales by the company, Virginia-based Owens & Minor, dating back to 2009.

That's welcome news to Fillmore, which has made deep cuts in recent years to balance its budgets.


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