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DRIVING THE LOCAL ECONOMY AUTO DEALERS, BIG RETAILERS FILLING CITY COFFERS.

Byline: Angela M. Lemire Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA - Automobile sales continued to fuel the local economy last year, as dealerships again ranked among the city's top sales tax revenue generators.

The city's latest independent audit of roughly $16 million in sales tax revenues collected from October 1998 through September 1999 shows that 11 local automobile dealerships and credit leasing agencies dominated the list of Santa Clarita's top 25 sales tax generators, according to city accounting reports.

Eight retail stores, two grocery stores, two building and construction suppliers and two specialty businesses rounded out the listing.

State law permits cities to release top sales tax revenue generators, but for privacy purposes, cities may not rank them in order or release individual sales tax figures.

Local sales taxes, which account for 29 percent of the city's general fund, showed an 8.62 percent increase over the previous reporting period, officials said. The city collected $14.75 million from October 1997 through September 1998, and $16.02 million during the October 1998-September 1999 period, according to Barbara Boswell, the city's accounting manager.

Overall, this year's ``top 25'' had no surprises and followed sales trends of previous years and quarters, Boswell and city Economic Development Director Mike Havilland said.

``In the past, sales tax revenue has been driven by the major auto dealers and the large anchors, or larger retail stores,'' Havilland said. ``That's exactly what we have again this year.''

At City Hall, the Finance Department relies on sales tax figures for annual and long-term budgets, but officials also use it as one tool in economic development, Havilland said.

``Indirectly, we can use these figures. If, for example, we're trying to attract something like a Lexus dealership. We can prove we have a strong market here for auto sales in general,'' he said.

The annual sales tax ``benchmarks,'' which demonstrate the performance of various business categories, are more important to economic development planning, Havilland added.

``We're interested to see the vitality of our top 25, but there's a whole list of businesses in this city that fall below the top 25 that are a strong part of our economy, too,'' Havilland said.

The city separates businesses into the categories of general retail, food products, transportation, construction, business-to-business and miscellaneous, according to Boswell.

General retail rose from roughly $1 million in the third fiscal quarter of 1998 to nearly $1.175 million in the third quarter of 1999, city reports show.

Transportation, which includes auto sales and leasing services, generated steady quarterly sales tax revenues of $1.2 million between 1998's fiscal third quarter and the same reporting period in 1999. An exception was seen in the 1998 fourth fiscal quarter, which showed that auto sales dropped slightly over winter holidays, while retail sales tax revenues spiked to $1.4 million in the same reporting period.

Not surprisingly, the largest percentage increase occurred in the category of building and construction materials, which rose 19.72 percent. The city currently is experiencing record growth in residential housing development.

TOP REVENUE

PRODUCERS

Santa Clarita's top 25 sales tax generators from July 1998-June 1999, listed in alphabetical order.

Best Buy - electronics

Dayton Hudson Corp. - Target store

Ford Credit Titling Trust - auto leasing

Frontier Toyota

Home Depot

J.C. Penney Co.

Kmart

Lucky Food Centers

Magic Ford

Magic Lincoln/Mercury

Mervyn's of California

National Ready Mixed Concrete

Parkway Oldsmobile/Cadillac

Qiagen - light manufacturing

Robinsons-May Department Store

Ron Tonkin's Valencia Acura

Scott Irvin Chevrolet/Geo

Sears Roebuck & Co.

Shield Health Care Center

Terry York's Dodge/Isuzu

Price Club (now Costco)

Toyota Motor Credit - auto leasing

Valencia Honda

Valencia Nissan

Vons Grocery Company

Note: State law allows the release of a city's top 25 sales tax generators, but not in order of sales. The stipulation is designed to protect proprietary information.

SOURCE: City of Santa Clarita

CAPTION(S):

3 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- color) Best Buy in Valencia is one of the area's top revenue sources.

(2 -- 3) Robinsons-May, above, and Target, at left, both in Valencia, are on the list of Santa Clarita's top 25 sales tax revenue-producing businesses.

Shaun Dyer/Special to the Daily News

Box: TOP REVENUE PRODUCERS (See text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Feb 21, 2000
Words:693
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