Sales tax sees sharp decrease

Forest fires, Labor Day account for losses

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— Sales tax revenue for September had the biggest percentage decrease since the economic aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, but city staff is still expecting the end-of-year total to be even with 2001.

Forest fires, an early Labor Day weekend and an accounting abnormality combined to see September bring in 10.54 percent less sales tax revenue than the previous year.

But City Finance Director Don Taylor said the sharp decrease could partly be contributed to an accounting practice.

In September 2001, a taxpayer the city had been negotiating with paid everything in one lump sum.

That means the city had a significant drop in September but should not be so far off 2001's year-to-date total.

Currently, the sales tax is 1.27 percent behind last year's total.

"(The 10 percent decrease) would have dragged the year-to-date down more than 1.27 percent in an even September," City Manager Paul Hughes said. "I believe we will finish the year about even."

September 2002 brought in $914,784.

A September sales tax collection has not been that low since 1998. Although September saw the largest percentage decrease for the year, it was only a $107,823 difference.

Sandy Evans-Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, said she saw the county's lingering wildfires as one of the factors contributing to September's decline.

She said it could also be a Labor Day weekend that had the Friday and Saturday fall in August and the Sunday and Monday fall in September.

It also could have been the late planning in a major Labor Day weekend event, which could have caused fewer three-day weekend visitors, Evans-Hall said.

The lodging community saw a 15.68 percent decrease in the accommodation tax. Although it was a significant percentage drop, it was just a $3,000 difference.

Taylor said that difference could be explained by a lack of a major conference or another minor shift.

Despite September's lower figures, Evans-Hall is optimistic for the coming months.

She said bookings for the two weeks surrounding Christmas, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and even March are comparable to 2000 at this time.

She also said flight passenger sales are up.

"Definitely the word is out there. People know we have snow. And the early opening put us on the radar screen," she said.

The city's building use tax continues to be down. September saw a 39 percent decrease over the previous year, with $30,612 collected.

The year-to-date total is $434,956, which is 62 percent lower than this time last year.

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