KINGSPORT – With harsh winter weather finally subsiding, Kingsport leaders, including the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Board of Education, Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Kingsport Association and PEAK young professionals groups are urging residents to help Kingsport businesses put the weather behind them as well.

Noting a recent social media post by a small business person, ice and snow have not only taken their toll on residents, but small businesses that will never make up the lost commerce

“As I pay the bills for STYLE and Fermented, I realize the snow days that allowed for some much needed rest and family time for so many have also resulted in many days of lost income to small business owners,” said Julie Gunn, owner of Style and Fermented. “You, our customers, are the reason that we got into business and, quite frankly, the reason we stay in business. I cannot thank you enough. I urge you to continue to shop small businesses and support your local shops and restaurants. Our continued success depends upon it.”

A small businessman himself, Mayor Dennis Phillips, who last year called for the extension of Valentine’s Day sales season when a major snow fell on that holiday, said he knows how much every sale means when trying to keep a store open.

“Both the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and I understand that these stores are not just merchants, but job generators for many people,” Phillips said. “When you have a major weather event, the store owners and their employees are the ones who are left out in the cold.”

Shopping locally, whether downtown or at major retail centers, those dollars stay local, including the sales tax dollars that benefit schools throughout Sullivan County.

“Most people don’t realize whether they live in the County or the City, when you buy in Kingsport, fifty cents of every sales tax dollar goes back to schools no matter where that school is located inside the county,” City Manager Jeff Fleming said. “They also don’t always think about how those dollars flow through the community and benefit so many people. And the bottom line is, growing sales keep property taxes lower for everyone as well.”

About 24 percent of the Kingsport budget is generated from sales tax. It would take an additional 92 cents added to the property tax rate to replace sales tax revenue in the City budget.

For a $150,000 house, that would be an additional $345 per year, Fleming said. Sales tax is the Citys second largest source of revenue, and helps Kingsport pay for education, fire and police, public works and other services. Yet that revenue is generated not only by residents, but those who come to Kingsport from elsewhere to shop.

Due to repeated snow storms and the impact on commerce, the City, BOE, Chamber, DKA, KOSBE and PEAK have convened a joint Buy Local committee chaired by Larry Estepp to promote the benefit of buying local goods and services.

“My children get sick of hearing me say it, but keeping our dollars local multiplies the impact for everyone,” Estepp said. “It’s something you have to keep in mind if your want your community to succeed.”

In all, the City has collected $17.3 million in sales taxes so far this fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014. Under state law, half of that sum goes to support K-12 school systems in Kingsport, Bristol and Sullivan County on a per student basis.

About 65 percent of all sales taxes generated in Sullivan County are generated inside the corporate limits of Kingsport.