Town revenues bouncing back

Area sees increase in earnings

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— Hayden's town officials expected the worst and hoped for the best last September.

What they recently got was some reassurance their town would weather a rattled economy.

Reports of December sales tax revenues for the town of Hayden indicate a slight 1 percent increase from December 2000.

"We were expecting a lot worse than it is," Hayden Town Clerk Lisa Johnston said.

The Town Board cut $100,000 from its 2002 budget last fall to compensate for any loss in the town's sales tax revenue.

Infrastructure projects and several requests from the police and public works departments did not receive funding because of the cuts.

Now the town might be rewarded for its frugalness.

Monthly reports of the town's sales tax revenue are delayed by almost two months.

If December bears any indication of January and February, however, the town would be able to amend its 2002 budget to include previously omitted projects.

Johnston said departments could make requests, and the Town Board could decide which requests merited the additional funding.

September 2001 brought in $35,801 in comparison to $40,014 in September 2000. December 2001 closed the gap with revenues of $48,201 in comparison to $47,382 in December 2000.

Hayden receives about 37 percent of its sales tax revenue from Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

When the number of flights dipped in September, Johnston said, Hayden's share of the earnings from car rentals and food dropped significantly.

Business for Avis Rent A Car Systems, one of two car rental agencies at the Hayden airport, returned to more normal levels in February, agency operator Kay Wiltfong said.

Numbers fell by 20 percent after September at Hertz Rent A Car, manager Debbie Watson said, but a high volume of customers used the agency during the Presidents Day weekend.

Ben Gero, owner of Hangar Gifts, said his sales at Yampa Valley Regional Airport decreased by 90 percent from September to December, compared to the same four-month period in 2000.

Much of the loss resulted when he closed the shop in response to the low number of riders, he said.

"It dramatically affected us," Gero said.

Business returned to normal levels in January and remains steady, he added.

Despite the help from Hangar Gifts and the car rental agencies, businesses in Hayden account for the bulk of the town's sales tax revenue.

Much of that revenue flows from hunting season.

Lorraine Johnson, a member of the Town Board and a small-business owner, felt the effects of fewer hunters in the fall.

Surprisingly, she said, revenues at Mount Harris Liquor differ only slightly from last year's revenues.

And the store's sales, she added, are up from last year.

An increase in hunting licenses, coupled with a poor economy, kept people away in the fall, Johnson said.

The type of hunter, she said, who rarely hunts but spends substantial amounts of money on the sport when he or she does stayed away.

"Sept. 11 didn't help anybody," she said.

Despite the moderate success of Hayden businesses, she said, the board acted wisely in taking a conservative approach to the 2002 budget.

"We wanted something to fall back on," Johnson said.

Jim Haskins, Hayden's mayor pro tem, said he does not remember a time when the town anticipated losing so much revenue from its sales tax.

The relatively steady figures surprised him, he said.

He cautioned against anticipating too great a recovery too soon.

Regardless of gloomy or good economic forecasts, Haskins said, town boards past and present in Hayden have always approached the budget with a conservative philosophy.

"We've always been ahead of the curve," he said.

As a game warden with the Division of Wildlife, Haskins saw the national economy's immediate impact on Northwest Colorado's hunting season and the loss of revenue that followed.

The hunting season should recover by next fall, he said.

He attributed the low sales tax revenue during the hunting season to a $200 increase in hunting fees and low numbers of hunters who spent money in Hayden.

Some of the solution might come with a $200 decrease in cow tags to deal with a high elk population.

When hunting fees increased in the past, Haskins said, the state wasn't impacted because higher prices stifled the blow of fewer people paying the higher price.

But small communities that rely on large numbers of hunters lose, he added.

Projections of low sales tax revenues never materialized in the communities of South Routt.

Sales tax revenue for the town of Oak Creek jumped from $129,436 in 2000 to $131,346 in 2001.

About $43,000 from both of those totals went toward the town's infrastructure, in keeping with a town ordinance that sets aside 1 percent of the 3 percent sales tax toward streets and sidewalks.

The town of Oak Creek cut its 2002 budget in anticipation of lower sales tax revenue, Oak Creek Town Manager Ray Leibensperger said.

Leibensperger said he was somewhat concerned for businesses in Oak Creek, but the numbers prove him wrong, he said.

Unlike larger communities, the Oak Creek Town Board was not forced to make large adjustments to its budget to compensate losses.

"We deal with such small dollars," Leibensperger said.

Yampa began collecting a sales tax in July 2000, but sales tax revenue comparisons between 2000 and 2001 reveal an increase.

In September, the town collected $5,906 in comparison to $3,880 in September 2000, and $6,461 in December 2001 compared to $5,632 in December 2000.

Yampa's total sales tax revenue in 2001 was $51,189.

The Yampa Town Board made no adjustments to its 2002 budget, Yampa Town Clerk Janet Ray said, but it watches the numbers closely to ensure no changes result.

"It hasn't really affected us," she said.

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