2006 sales tax up 10.5 percent

But December collections were slightly below previous year


— Steamboat Springs netted a record $18.12 million in sales tax revenues last year, a 10.5 percent increase from 2005.

The numbers were released this week when the city received its sales tax report for December.

The only negative in the report was December sales tax revenues were down slightly compared to December 2005. For more than three years, the city has seen an increase in sales tax every month as compared to the same month the previous year. That streak ended when December collections - normally the biggest month of the year for sales tax receipts - came in at $2.348 million, down 0.5 percent from the year December 2005.

Tracy Barnett, program manager for Main Street Steamboat Springs, said downtown businesses felt the impact.

"December is supposed to be the biggest month for retail, but miscellaneous retail sales tax was even lower than 2004 and 2005," she said. "Last year there was a tremendous jump from 2004 to 2005 in downtown - from $208,000 to $224,000. This year was only $207,000."

Some of the reasons Barnett speculated for the decrease were the possibility that people spent more money online, out of town or just didn't spend as much overall.

"I know nationally, the numbers were disappointing," she said. "The electronic stuff was also the big thing this Christmas and we just don't have that much of it for sale downtown."

Many businesses rely on the revenues of the month of December to carry them through to the next busy season.

"January and February are generally slow, so we depend on making our sales goal every year," said Shauna Levingston, store manager of Visia Eyewear. "The two weeks before and after Christmas are two of the busiest weeks of the year and a lot of businesses depend on them. If they are not making the money, it puts them in a position of not being able to make it through March or all the way to the summer."

Levingston observed a lower volume of shoppers downtown.

"There wasn't the traffic downtown that we normally have," she said. "I would go outside and nobody had a shopping bag."

Snowstorms in Denver interrupted air service in December and that could have had an impact on sales tax collections.

"With the snowstorm, some people were unable to cancel their vacation and couldn't get here," Levingston said. "If they did, they didn't have extra money to spend."

Don Taylor, director of financial services for the city of Steamboat Springs, had a different opinion.

"If you look at the report, you see that utilities have gone down because gas prices returned somewhat to normal over the previous year," he said. "That by itself probably accounted for it being down, as opposed to up a little bit."

The large increase between December 2004 and December 2005 also made it a hard act to follow for 2006.

"December last year was up a lot, and it's always hard to have back to back increases when the year before was so big," Taylor said.

Overall, the slight slip in December had little impact on a strong economic year overall, Taylor said.

"At the close of the 2006 year, as a whole, sales tax was up more than budgeted," Taylor said. "The fact that the one month was down doesn't really affect our financial plan."

- To reach Allison Plean, call 871-4204

or e-mail aplean@steamboatpilot.com


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