City sales-tax numbers continue to drop below last year's, keeping the city on its toes.
In March, historically the biggest sales tax revenue month of the year, revenue was 3.93 percent below last year. The March sales-tax total for this year was $1.75 million compared with $1.82 million in 2002.
March was the second month in a row that sales-tax revenue took a significant drop from the year before. The year-to-date sales tax total saw a 3.87 percent drop from last year to $4.7 million.
Sales tax revenue is the city's primary funding source.
"We have already taken steps to cover the shortfall that we've realized so far," City Manager Paul Hughes said at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
Hughes said since sales-tax numbers first started dropping this year, the city has been making cuts to its budgets. He said the city has held back hiring employees, buying supplies and making capital improvements.
"We sent out a memo to staff saying if you don't need to hire it, don't. If you don't need to buy it, don't," Hughes said.
The city had planned for a 3 percent increase in sales tax for the year, which means the city's revenue is 7 percent less than what it planned for when it approved the 2003 budget in October.
Hughes said if revenue continues to come in at the current pace, the city could maintain its budget by continuing with cost-cutting measures.
"Every month (Finance Director Don Taylor) and I will take a look at it. Large steps might need to be taken, but we have been able to accommodate it under the revenue side so far," Hughes said.
Except for regionally and west Steamboat, sales tax numbers were down throughout the city. Numbers also were down for all sale items.
City Council President Kathy Connell pointed out the decrease in the accommodation tax, which was down by 3.22 in March from the year before.
"To have our accommodation (tax) down from last year, which is the worst year ever, and to know there are 1,200 more rental pillows, this is truly worrisome," she said.
Connell also said advanced reservations for the summer months are down 30 percent from last year at this time.
"This is a (major) impact on everyone in this community," Connell said. "We hope that our good weather and moisture will bring a summer that makes people want to come to the mountains."
The city's budget woes were emphasized again Tuesday night when Routt County Search and Rescue came before the board.
The volunteer organization re-ported on its service to the community and asked the council to consider more funding in next year's budget.
Connell said the community appreciated their efforts, but said the city was under tight budget constraints. She asked that the group support the council if it asks voters to approve a different taxing source in this November's election.
"I want you to know we feel strongly about the services you provide and we want to continue to be a partner because those services you provide to Steamboat Springs are important. The problem is we have many more needs than we have funds," Connell said.
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