City sees drop in sales tax numbers

End-of-year figures expected to be flat or even a little higher

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— City sales tax numbers took a 7.4 percent dip in October over the year before.

October was one of the biggest percentage drops in sales tax revenue this year but was just a $56,316 difference from October 2001. Even with the drops in October and September, which had a 10 percent decrease over last year, the year-to-date sales tax totals could be flat or even higher than last year with a strong Christmas season.

At the end of this October, sales tax numbers were down 1.59 percent overall, with $11,390,301 being collected for the entire year.

With the $56,000 difference between Octobers, Sandy Evans-Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, said it is hard to pinpoint exactly why the numbers were down.

All parts of town showed a decrease in sales tax numbers, but the mountain area had the biggest drop, with a 23 percent decrease. The area's total revenue dropped by $9,000 in October of last year to this October for a total of $29,325.

Evans-Hall did not correlate the drop in sales tax revenues to fewer hunters; in fact, she said hunting numbers were strong. She pointed to the numbers along the U.S. Highway 40 Corridor, where hunters typically stay. That area had the smallest decrease, 1.69 percent, and the most revenue, $285,397.

"Hunting was pretty solid," she said.

Evans-Hall said the difference came from the west Steamboat area, which had a 12 percent drop from last October and went from $170,603 in sales tax revenue to $149,835. She said the $20,700 shortfall could have come from the downturn in the construction industry. The entire Steamboat economy could be feeling the shift in the construction business with fewer retail sales, the number of people being paid and the wages they spend.

"(Construction's) overall impact on the economy is extremely important," Evans-Hall said.

But west Steamboat, with hardware stores and other construction-related businesses, could have been the hardest hit.

The Building Use Tax, which is one way to measure construction activity, has dropped by 59 percent over last year. The October numbers dropped by 60 percent, with the city collecting just less than $100,000.

Even with October's 7 percent decrease in sales tax, Evans-Hall believes the end-of-year sales tax numbers could be flat or even a little higher than last year. The reason is an early opening for the ski area , an early Thanksgiving weekend and strong Christmas bookings. And the snow that has been dumping on Steamboat since Sunday should also help with sales tax revenue.

"It is absolutely the best gift Mother Nature could give us for Christmas," Evans-Hall said.

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