City sales taxes dip

Decline first recorded in 16 months

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— For the first time in 16 months, Steamboat Springs sales tax collections took a dip in April.

Collections thus far for April, the latest month from which figures are available, total $671,388, a decrease of 5.4 percent or $38,008 compared to April 1999. The one-month decline in sales tax receipts marks the first time that has happened since January 1999, when sales tax revenue was off 2.7 percent.

Sales tax collections for the year to date are still up 7.5 percent over the first four months of 1999. The decline in April comes after a 9.4 percent increase in February and a 12.7 percent increase in March.

Easter came late this year on April 23, and sales tax figures show the final two weeks of the ski season were less than robust.

"The airlines stopped flying in April 2. With Easter being so late, we were struggling to stay open for two more weeks," Sandy Evans-Hall said. She is executive director of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. "When Easter is earlier in the month, it becomes a vacation for people."

The city's regular taxes on lodging were off 21.84 percent compared to last April and the single point of accommodation tax was off 23.4 percent. Accommodation tax revenue for April 2000 was $17,461 compared to $22,785 in April 1999. That's a drop of $5,324. Accommodation taxes in April 1998 totaled $17,939.

Year to date, 2000 accommodation taxes are up 6.7 percent over the first four months of 1999.

The 1 percent accommodation tax makes it a pretty straightforward math exercise to conclude that the lodging industry in Steamboat did just less than $1.75 million in business in April.

Evans-Hall said she doesn't think the abrupt end to ski tourism this spring caught anyone by surprise. But the situation at Colorado's ski resorts was compounded by the early arrival of summer-like weather on the Front Range. The mild temperatures turned people's attention to golf and other pursuits, she said.

The strength of ski-related April tourism also is very sensitive to minor variations in the calendar, Evans-Hall said. She explained that the direct jet flights into Yampa Valley Regional Airport usually continue through the first weekend in April. In 1999, the first Saturday in April was on April 3, but this year, it fell on April 1. Even a couple of days can make a difference in the resort economy, Evans pointed out. On April 3, 1999, the chamber's lodging barometer showed a 65 percent occupancy rate. A week later, the occupancy had slipped to 35 percent. This year, with the first Saturday in April falling on the 1st, occupancy rates were 58 percent on that first Saturday, and had slipped to 28 percent a week later.

In terms of the city budget, year-to-date sales tax receipts continue to be well ahead of projections despite the downturn in April. To date, cash receipts are $6.9 million, almost $674,000 ahead of budget.

Steamboat fared better than Vail in April, but not as well as Aspen, strictly in terms of percentage growth in sales tax revenues. Vail was off 7.64 percent, but Aspen managed a modest increase of 3.4 percent.

To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210 or e-mail tomross@amigo.net

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