Sales taxes show modest Feb. increase

Natural gas price hikes big reason for rise

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— If it weren't for the fact that natural gas prices went up so much this winter, the city may have had a 2-percent increase in city sales tax receipts from the month of February.

Although the city took in 5.6 percent more than it did in February 2000, the numbers are somewhat deceiving, given the gas price increase. Those increases caused utility companies to send more than 50 percent more in sales-tax dollars to the city in hard dollars, that came out to $56,519 over last February. Overall, sales-tax receipts increased by $84,336, meaning that the utility increase accounted for 67 percent of the rise.

Retail and lodging, of course, are a much better indicator of the city's financial health than are utilities. Besides a 4.8-percent increase in restaurant receipts, however, the rest of the lodging and retail community stayed relatively flat as compared to last year given the number of new businesses in town.

Retailers already have begun to grumble about a slow March but said February was not necessarily so bad for sales. Mountain businesses, as they have for the past nine months, showed a larger increase percentage-wise than downtown businesses. That percentage increase amounts to a larger actual dollar amount during January and February, though mountain sales are much lower than downtown sales during the summer and early winter.

Joe Kboudi of All That Jazz said downtown businesses are not as bad off as the numbers indicate if one looks at the strong January the downtown area enjoyed. In that month, the area sent in 4.3 percent more in sales tax than in January 2000. That increase more than makes up for a slow September and October, during which sales are traditionally slow anyway. A loss in those months does less damage than having a bad March, for example, Kboudi said.

Karen Riggio, the owner of Riggio's Fine Italian Food, said downtown business owners have been having some trouble in the past few months, which may have to do with a downturn in the stock market.

Doug Terry of Terry Sports said the mountain business community has been experiencing some of the same difficulties downtown businesses are dealing with. He said there have also been premonitions of a very bad March from a number of businesses in the Mountain Business Association.

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