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Residents urged to shop locally

In the midst of the Christmas shopping season and a historic recession, Chilton County leaders are urging residents to shop local.

“Anytime you shop outside of the county, that is tax money lost for education,” Chilton County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Pennie Broussard said.

Broussard pointed out that the only countywide sales tax goes 100 percent to the school system.

Chilton County Board of Education CFO Steve Yeargan said the tax generates nearly $2.8 million in revenue each year. So far this fiscal year, however, revenues are down about $10,000 per month.

“If we stay at the pace we’re at, we’re probably going to be down a minimum of about $120,000,” Yeargan said, adding, “Hopefully, it will get back on track.”

Aside from schools, local municipalities are able to use sales tax revenue to put back into infrastructure. But in a time of high unemployment, people are pinching pennies.

Clanton City Clerk Debbie Orange said the city’s sales tax revenues from Oct. 1 through Nov. 30 are down about $44,000 compared to the same period in 2008.

“It’s not what I call serious, but it’s down some,” Mayor Billy Joe Driver said. “It can go and come. Next month, it might go back up.”

In general, Driver said, people seem to be good about supporting local businesses. But people do like variety, meaning that often they will cross county lines when looking for something they need.

A new population count from the upcoming 2010 U.S. Census may push the city closer to the 10,000 mark, which could draw more commercial businesses like those people seek out of town. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the city of Clanton’s population was 7,800.

Driver stressed the importance of participation in the Census questionnaire, which is either mailed in or taken door-to-door by a Census worker.

Broussard said local shopping, more specifically supporting small businesses, is one of the best ways people can help boost the economy.

“Small businesses are the backbone,” she said. “Every little bit helps.”