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Approaching pre-pandemic numbers…
Cotulla’s municipal economy has demonstrated a rebound to levels that were being recorded prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to financial consultant Jorge Flores, who said last week that recent tax revenues represent a new high.
Flores outlined the city’s revenues and expenditures in his report to the city council Thursday, August 11, and said sales tax payments to the city exceeded $175,000 for the month and that an eleven-month tally stands at over $1.6 million.
“We can expect $1.8 million by the end of the budget year,” Flores said. “This is approaching pre-COVID numbers.”
Cotulla suffered revenue setbacks in the hundreds of thousands of dollars when pandemic-related shut-downs in 2020 and 2021 forced business closures, emptied local hotels, and virtually froze retail sales, simultaneously putting hundreds of local residents temporarily out of work.
Revenues generated for the city economy by hotels in Cotulla have also made a comeback, according to Flores, who said Cotulla collected at least $135,000 in July and had already received $80,000 for the first week of August through its Hotel Occupancy Tax, a surcharge on every hotel and motel room booked in the city.
For the fiscal year to date, Cotulla has collected over $884,000 in hotel tax revenues, Flores said, adding that some hotels have yet to make their payments.
The state of Texas mandates that hotel tax revenues only be used by municipalities for specific expenditures and cannot be injected into a city’s general fund. The tax is aimed at boosting the local economy by supporting projects that further enhance a city’s tourism appeal, thereby encouraging more hotel bookings. In Cotulla’s case, the special revenue fund has been used for downtown beautification and landscaping, bronze statues of historic figures, a mural on Main Street, park upgrades, promotion of family-oriented festivals, and the restoration of a former bank building on Front Street that is owned by the city.
City Administrator Larry Dovalina told councilors last week that Cotulla will continue its enforcement of the hotel tax collection and that seven local hotels have been selected for an audit, “to check if they paid taxes for certain individuals who stayed on their properties.”
In related economic news, councilors learned last week that the vacant former ShopKo store (also former Alco), a 25,000-square-foot space, has been sold to a lumber and hardware retailer who expects to convert the building into a multifaceted business offering wood and construction supplies, tools, hardware, electrical and plumbing supplies as well as goods for agribusiness, farming and ranching. The business is expecting to employ a full-time staff of approximately 12.
The council voted unanimously last week to re-zone the property from retail to commercial in advance of the building’s conversion.