City sales tax up 6.7% in December

Utilities heat the coffers of Steamboat

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— December proved to be another healthy financial month for the city, as its coffers were filled 34 percent more than last year by sales tax receipts from the overripe utilities industries.

With gas prices doubling and tripling last year's numbers, the city ended up sharing the wealth once sales taxes were collected.

"A big portion of the increase was driven in part by the increase in utilities pushed by both the price increase and a colder December," said city finance director Don Taylor.

That same revenue bonus, however, also resulted in a larger minus sign on the city's balance sheet as the city ended up putting in about 25 percent more money towards its own heating costs than it did last year.

December's receipts cap off a year in which sales taxes brought in 8.5 percent more than the previous year. Despite a slight dip in April, sales taxes maintained a steady upward course, prompting Taylor to predict another 4.6 percent increase for 2001 over his projections for 2000.

That 4.6 percent increase was based on projections he made in the fall of how well the economy would perform through the rest of the year. He actually underpredicted, allowing the city to put more money into reserves than it had expected, he said.

The money the city receives in January from sales in December goes into the 2001 budget.

The city ended 2000 with more in its reserves than it had budgeted for, due to both the strong sales tax receipts and much lower operating expenses than the city had anticipated. Operating expenses were down about 10 percent, Taylor said.

Sporting goods companies had a good month as they did in November, sending in 18.2 percent more revenue to the city.

Bob Dapper of Christy Sports said the store did well in December, riding the momentum spurred by the early snow that hit Steamboat in November. Christy Sports, which sells skis, snowboards and ski apparel in the winter, saw double-digit growth in December, Dapper said.

The city of Aspen also showed strong sales tax receipts in December from the sporting goods industry, which were up 11 percent from 1999.

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