North Dakota's taxable sales and purchases have increased for a third time this year, but in Grand Forks revenues have decreased.
From July to September of 2018, taxable sales and purchases saw an increase statewide of more than 18 percent over those same months in 2017. For that same period in Grand Forks, taxable sales and purchases decreased by 8.75 percent, North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger said.
This is the third consecutive quarter that North Dakota's taxable sales and purchases have seen an increase and also the third consecutive quarter that there has been a decrease in Grand Forks.
Grand Forks has seen decreases of 15.17 and 11.75 in the first and second quarters, respectively.
And there will most likely be a decrease in the fourth quarter, too, Rauschenberger said.
"Grand Forks being down almost 9 percent is due to retail trade," he said.
The retail trade sector in Grand Forks was down almost 16 percent year over year in the third quarter, and that made up almost all of the decrease from the previous year. Big box stores leaving Grand Forks and the weakness of the Canadian dollar are also not helping the city.
But in the beginning of the fourth quarter of this year was when companies were required to register with the state for online sales tax.
"We do hope that the online sales tax will help Grand Forks not have such a big decrease here in the next quarter," Rauschenberger said. "We know more online sales will be captured, and I'm hopeful it will be a better number for Grand Forks. It might still be down, but down to a lesser extent."
City Finance Director Maureen Storstad said that collections with online sales tax are only slightly down from last year. Collections are down less than 1 percent from 2017.
Storstad agreed with Rauschenberger that retail was the biggest factor in the decrease. With big box stores like Macy's and Sears leaving town and the Canadian dollar being so low, many have skipped shopping in Grand Forks.
But online sales are off-setting the decrease, Storstad said, which is why her numbers don't match up with Rauschenberger's.
The state overall, in the third quarter, Rauschenberger said, had the largest year-to-year percent increase since 2012.
"And it wasn't just oil that boosted numbers, it was more widespread than we were seeing earlier in the year," Rauschenberger said. "Across the state, consumer confidence is up."
Many of the major sectors reported gains statewide in the third quarter of 2018. The utilities sector increased by more than 200 percent, the report found. The oil extraction sector increased by 46 percent. The retail trade sector also saw a relatively small bump of nearly 6 percent.
"It's good that we're not just relying on oil, we're not putting all our eggs in one basket," Rauschenberger said.
According to the report, cities on the western side of the state saw more growth than cities on the eastern side. Williston's taxable sales and purchases increased by 28.86 percent.
Dickinson saw a bump of more than 17 percent. Fargo saw an increase of 4.52 percent.
"It's tough to compare a western city to an eastern city because they have different contributing factors to their economies," Rauschenberger said.
Rauschenberger expects the whole state to continue to see an increase in the fourth quarter.
"All signs indicate towards growth," he said.