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Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 22, 1999

school is in session


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Published Aug. 22, 1999

With the early start of Troy State University this year due to a change to semesters come hundreds of students with enough cash to stimulate the local economy.

According to Troy City Clerk Alton Starling, the effect of student spending on the local retail industry is "enormous."

"Suddenly, you’ve got nearly 5,000 students in town spending an average of $100 per month each – on a conservative guess," Starling said. "That certainly affects the local economy."

Tax returns to the city tell the same story.

According to sales tax returns for 1998, Troy typically showed higher revenue during the months school was in session at TSU.

For the month of May 1998, returns to the city, about four percent of total spending, totaled $286,000 compared to the returns for June which totaled $267,000. That $19,000 gap in collected sales tax represents nearly $500,000 in retail sales that occurred within the city’s limits, from approximately $7.15 million to $6.68 million.

In July 1998, collected taxes continued to fall, hitting $263,000, or a fall of about $100,000 in revenues paid to local businesses from June.

Starling estimates tax returns to hit $10,000 for every $250,000 spent. In 1998, returns varied from being as low as $250,000 during the month of June and as high as $300,000 for the month of December.

Some rises and falls can be attributed to retail cycles, Starling said, but the trends indicate that student spending accounts for much of the local economy.

According to Ron Pierce, director of auxiliary services for Troy State University, Trojan Card spending shows that students have an impact on local businesses.

At TSU, many students set up accounts through the university that allow the students access to money through the use their student identification cards. Money is pre-deposited into the account and the cards are swiped at locations to draw a debit on the account. At TSU, most coin-operated machines are now "card-operated," Pierce said.

Seventeen local merchants take the Trojan Card at their locations, in addition to the different departments on campus. Pierce said during the 1998-99 school year, about 3,400 TSU students participated in the program.

Pierce keeps an eye on how the students are spending their Trojan Card money, and his data shows that nearly a third of all student spending on the Trojan Cards last year was done off campus.

"Students deposited $305,000 into their accounts last year, and almost $100,000 of that was spent off campus," Pierce said. "Of that total, 53.7 percent was spent on food and another 43.2 percent was spent at the different gas stations that take the card."

Spending at the local gas vendors also includes purchases made on other items at the locations.

Additionally Pierce said, 3.1 percent of the money that was spent off campus was spent on movie rentals.

"One of the reasons for this is that these are the businesses that take the card," Pierce said.

Pierce said the addition of merchants that would take the Trojan card would likely increase the volume of business.

"The money the business anticipated it would take in would have to justify the expense of adding the equipment," he said.

On the Trojan card alone, students pumped an average of more than $7,000 per month into the local economy.

"Where you see the biggest months of spending are in the first full months after students come to school – like October of last year," Pierce said. "This year, we anticipate September to be the highest month of spending on the cards."