Record-breaking sales tax

December revenue up 6 percent from last year

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The city enjoyed a record-setting December for sales-tax revenue records with a 6 percent increase over last year and more than $1.8 million collected.

The jump in sales-tax revenue in December was enough to push the year-to-date total to $13.95 million, a 0.79 percent increase from last year. The year-end numbers are good news for the city, which just six months ago was facing a 3 percent decrease in sales-tax revenue from the year before.

Five of the first seven months of 2003 were down and the other two had minimal increases, but from August on, sales-tax revenues climbed continuously, with the largest jump coming in December.

Last year was the first time the city hit the $1.8 million sales-tax mark in December. March, which typically brings in the most revenue, brought in more than $1.8 million for three years straight from 2000 to 2002. The sales tax collected in December 2003 was the highest one-month total since March 2002.

December is traditionally the second-highest revenue-producing month. A 6 percent increase in sales tax for December meant the city's coffers increased by $116,600.

Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association's Executive President Sandy Evans Hall said she was hoping for a 5 percent increase in sales-tax revenue.

"I was pleased to see a little bit more," Evans Hall said.

December lodging numbers also were strong. The accommodation tax increased 14.31 percent from the same month in 2002, bringing in $96,360. December was one of just five months in 2003 that topped the previous year's numbers.

For that reason, despite December's strong showing the accommodation tax year-end total was still below last year's total. Just $614,830 was collected in 2003, a 2.28 percent decrease from the year before.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Councilwoman Kathy Connell noted that it was the third dismal winter the lodging community has seen. She said visitors tend toward last-minute bookings and are staying for shorter times. The ramifications are being felt, she said.

"The numbers are looking below last year, and last year was the worst year in 10 years," Connell said.

Evans Hall also said she was slightly disappointed by the low numbers the retail sector produced in December, which was up just 2.49 percent from 2002, and the 4.62 percent drop in sales tax coming from the downtown area.

"It was surprising the downtown retail experience did not fare better," Evans Hall said.

For the rest of the ski season, Evans Hall predicts January to be a little soft compared with last year, but February and March to be strong.

The building-use tax also ended on a high note for the year with a 73.75 percent increase from 2002's year-end number. The year-end total was just more than $1 million, a significant increase from the less than $600,000 the city collected last year.

The building-use tax saw a 96 percent increase in December with $32,600 being collected.

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