By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
The numbers are in: So, how much money has alcohol revenue raised for the City of Cullman in the first full year of legal sales?
According to financial reports, the city netted a total of $1.2 million in alcohol revenue over the past 12 months, ranging from sales tax revenue to application and licensing fees.
City officials had initially estimated alcohol sales would bring in approximately $1 million annually — after voters approved a “wet/dry” referendum in late 2010 — putting the final total slightly above those projections.
The biggest months from year one included March 2011 with $116,093; June 2011 with $113,833; and January 2012 with $110,615.
Beer and wine tax netted the brunt of the revenue — $635,598 — while alcohol sales tax and liquor tax brought in approximately $451,066. Miscellaneous fees and revenue accounted for the remainder of the total.
Over the 12-month period, alcohol sales brought in an average of just over $100,000 per month to the city’s coffers.
Though officials say the money obviously came at an opportune time, at the tail end of the Great Recession, city council member Jenny Folsom said to this point the revenue has been kept separate until officials could track the projected totals with better accuracy.
“We’ve totally kept this in a separate account, because we wanted to get a feeling for the trend,” Folsom said. “Obviously, we certainly wouldn’t want to obligate that toward something we wouldn’t be able to fund. It has kind of leveled off now, and we believe that should be pretty close to an average for future years moving forward.”
Over the past year, the council has opted to put the revenue toward local non-profit agency allotments, and grants for the downtown facade improvement program, which launched in the wake of the April 27, 2011 tornadoes that hit the city.
“We have used it to fund the non-profits that have asked for funding, like the United Way and Good Samaritan Clinic,” Folsom said. “We’ve also used it for the downtown incentive program for facades and rebuilding.”
For non-profit allocations, the alcohol revenue opened a door that had been closed since 2008 — when the council had to slash 25 percent from the budget in the face of falling revenues.
“At that time, we had to cut back on our funding for civic non-profits, things that we had typically given annual appropriations for,” Folsom said. “So, now, we’re able to get that back up a lot closer to the levels we were at before the recession. By the fall, we should certainly be closer to reaching that level. It was a revenue source that we would not have had, and I don’t know we would’ve been able to provide it.”
Though the council has yet to formally start budgeting for the next fiscal year, Folsom said she anticipates the council will keep the alcohol revenue separate for at least another year.
“With something like that, there is always the issue of it coming up on the ballot to reverse it,” she said. “If that were to happen, then it’s not something you would want to already have obligated. So, that’s something we’ll be looking at in the future.”
* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.