April revenues fall

Sales tax collections continue to decline

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— Excluding the cash the city received in sales taxes from the uncommonly bloated utilities industry, the city was down 2 percent in April as compared to last year.

While April is not one of the city's strongest sales tax months, owing in part to the fact that the ski season ends by the middle of the month, the momentary downturn in the local economy starting in March with a 3.5-percent decrease has yet to reverse itself.

The lodging industry acted as one of the bricks that sunk city sales tax revenues again this month, coming in 15.8 percent lower than in April, 2000. Lodging is basically flat for the year to date.

City Finance Director Don Taylor said the decrease, in terms of straight dollar amounts, is not particularly large. Compared to what a 15.8-percent decrease would mean in March, it should not be blown out of proportion, he said. This April, the lodging community sent in $65,150 to the city as compared to consistent receipts in the range of $550,000 from lodging in March.

For the year, the city is still up around 4 percent, about what Taylor expected, but less than in previous years.

The fact that lodging was down in April came as no surprise to those in the industry who dealt with lower skier turnout than they had hoped for at the end of the season.

Explanations for the decline range from a reduction in the number of available airline seats into Hayden to competition from eastern resorts that were blessed with especially good snow this year.

City Council President Pro Tem Kathy Connell, who works for Colorado Resort Services, said the lodging industry suffered this ski season, especially in the latter part of the winter and spring. She says the 15.8-percent decrease may actually be worse for each business than it sounds, because the bed base has increased even as revenues have decreased.

The yield per hotel, then, is down even further.

She pointed to Steamboat's difficulties in drawing the approximately 300,000 Front Range skiers in the spring months. Those skiers were traveling to Vail and other places with special lift-ticket and "buddy" deals, she said. Instead of driving all the way to Steamboat and paying full price, those travelers would more likely go to other destinations closer to Denver.

"Why would you come to Steamboat when you could basically ski for free other places and stay for prices we can't even open our rooms for?" Connell asked.

Larry Wheeler, general manager of the Holiday Inn, said the year actually turned around for his business during the later spring months, but overall he did have a tough ski season this year.

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