RINGGOLD, Ga. - What Catoosa County tax collectors missed in hamburgers and hotel stays, they more than made up for in tarps and lumber as Ringgold recovers from a deadly tornado.
Revenue figures for May - the first full month since the April 27 storms - show tax income was 11 percent above budget and 4 percent higher than last May.
"It appears that the rebuild more than outweighed the commercial loss," Catoosa County Financial Officer Carl Henson said.
During the 12-month period ending in May, the county brought in $345,000, or about 6 percent, more than in the previous 12 months. May's revenue was $60,000 over forecasts and $23,000 more than last May, Henson told the County Commission on Tuesday.
"It's good news," said Commissioner Ken Marks. "You hope it continues."
The April tornadoes damaged or destroyed dozens of buildings in Catoosa County, including tax-generating businesses. Officials had feared the loss of those businesses would hurt tax collections, but many pointed to recovery-related purchases as a reason for the increase.
And based on the full parking lot and busy shoppers at Junior's Building Materials in Ringgold on Tuesday morning, that may be true.
Owner Junior Boehm said the store sold loads of tarps and chain saws in the days immediately after the tornadoes. Now it's selling plenty of framing lumber and he expects to have a run on roofing materials when contractors are ready to top off their rebuilding projects.
In all, sales are up 30 to 35 percent over what he had expected before the tornadoes, Boehm said.
"It's been good," he said. "I hate it came that way."
Henson said the demand goes beyond building materials. Residents are replacing furniture, vehicles, appliances and other big-ticket items in addition to incidentals.
"It's not just replacing the house, it's everything in the house," Henson said.
Commission Chairman Keith Greene highlighted the steady increase over the last year rather than the single-month numbers. Greene attributed the rise to county residents shopping locally, increased revenue from out-of-county shoppers at Costco and growing consumer confidence.
"It's been a steady trend even before the storm," Greene said.