January sales tax revenues down

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— Sales tax revenues for the city of Steamboat Springs were down again in January, this time by 7.3 percent. But, compared to some other ski resort towns, Steamboat was either near the norm or above average.

Tonight, the City Council will review sales tax numbers from January, an important month in terms of the city's ability to fund projects when the City Council revisits the budget in April.

The fact that the city compares well with other ski resorts correlates with the assertion last week by Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Marketing Vice President Andy Wirth that Steamboat has not experienced the statewide trend of a downturn in skier days this year.

In Vail, for instance, the town took in 14.8 percent less than it did in January 2001.

Aspen, likewise, did not fare well in terms of sales tax numbers, with sales tax revenues dropping by 6.3 percent as compared to last January.

Sales tax revenues have been down for three months now, starting in November with an 8.4 percent fall-off as compared to November 2001.

This month, utilities accounted for about a quarter of the drop in sales tax revenues. At the end of 2000 and through most of 2001, sales tax revenues from the utilities industries were unusually high, because of high gas prices. Because gas prices in 2001 were something of an aberration, the sales tax decrease is not quite as striking, said city Finance Director Don Taylor.

Taylor is optimistic about the rest of the year, after the city budgeted for an eight percent decrease in sales tax revenues before the year began.

Taylor said Steamboat has weathered the storm better than some other ski resorts in part because much of its sales tax revenue comes from locals.

"I think we were a little more insulated from the effects of 9/11 and what was going on in the tourist industry than the pure resort community," he said.

The city has deferred many of its spending decisions until April, when it will also deal with some community support requests.

In addition, the city is currently in the midst of a hiring freeze and will have to decide whether to extend it.

City Councilman Loui Antonucci said he is not surprised that sales tax revenues are down about 7 percent.

He still thinks the city will have to cut items come April, but may be able to fund some of the items it had deferred.

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