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Tax collections top November projections

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - State tax collections topped expectations in November, erasing a lingering revenue deficit that built up earlier this year.

West Virginia's general revenue fund collections totaled $266.7 million in November, more than $2.8 million ahead of projections for the month.

The $2.8 million monthly surplus was enough to wipe out the remaining $825,000 budget deficit that the state had at the end of October.

Weakness in the state's coal industry took a toll on tax collections earlier this year. As a result, the state has experienced a slight deficit since the fiscal year began in July  

At the end of August - two months into the fiscal year - the state logged a cumulative shortfall of $16.5 million.

But strength in other sectors eventually began to offset those losses. The state ran surpluses of $11.9 million and $3.8 million in September and October.

November's $2.8 million surplus brings the state budget into the black for the first time this fiscal year.

State Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow said November's surplus was driven by strength in personal income tax collections.

"After falling short of estimates by $6.9 million in October, November personal income tax collections were $7.6 million above estimates," Muchow said.

The surplus in that area helped offset shortfalls in others.

Muchow said business tax collections were about $100,000 short of forecasts last month.  Consumer sales tax collections also fell about a half-million dollars short in November.

But Muchow noted the sales tax payments that came in during November were for October sales, so it did not include any revenue from post-Thanksgiving retail sales.

"The Black Friday sales will show up in the December collections," Muchow said.

Tax collections on coal and natural gas production also fell about $2.7 million short last month.

"Lower coal sales and lower natural gas prices contributed to these results," Muchow said.

The state's natural gas industry has grown this year. But since state severance taxes are calculated using the natural gas sales price, and that price has remained historically low, natural gas severance tax collections have not grown this year.

Muchow told lawmakers last week that state severance tax revenues were projected to fall slightly through 2015 before strength in the natural gas market finally causes a rebound.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at jared.hunt@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148. 


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