Local Hall County governments were treated to a late Christmas gift in the form of increased sales tax revenues.
Both Hall County and the city of Gainesville welcomed reports of their Local Option Sales Tax revenues for December, which had the strongest showing since December 2008. LOST is a one-cent sales tax that local governments can use toward general fund budgets.
Bob Hamrick, a Gainesville City Council member, said the news was good both for the city's budget and as an economic indicator since it indicates increased sales within the county.
"Maybe things are turning around, particularly in Hall County" said Hamrick on Thursday. "I'm just delighted that we've received so much money."
The city of Gainesville took in $508,000, up more than $100,000 from the previous year.
Hall County drew $1.9 million in December in LOST revenues, compared to $1.6 million in November and $1.4 million in December 2011.
Hall County Financial Operations Manager Jeremy Perry said the revenues were more than expected for that month.
By the numbers, Hall County received $2.2 million in March of 2009. But in reality, Perry said, that spike was actually combined from two months in 2009. As a result, the county didn't record LOST numbers for June of 2010.
Both Gainesville and Hall County get tax revenue from sales tax, property tax and other fees. Their reported LOST revenues are outpacing what was budgeted for the current fiscal year.
Still, elected officials say they are not ready to ease tight fists on the budget.
"I'm extremely cautious about looking at those numbers," said Hall County Commissioner Ashley Bell. "One good month is not a good reason to change our spending habits as of yet."
Only about 22 percent of the total Hall County budget is funded by LOST revenues.
Even with the good month, Bell said property taxes are expected to be down and commissioners will "leave all options on the table" right now for the budget process this summer.