Sales tax exceeds projections

December snowfall brings 8 percent increase in revenue for 2007

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Total sales tax revenue

December 2007 $2,492,131

December 2006 $2,378,514

Percent change 4.78

Sales tax year-to-date

Jan. to Dec. 2007 $19,658,161

Jan. to Dec. 2006 $18,184,375

Percent change 8.10

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Construction workers were busy with a new phase of the Village at Steamboat late last week.

— After the Steamboat Ski Area's delayed opening cut lodging and mountain area sales by nearly half in November, December's snowfall ushered in a recovery that helped bring a more than 8 percent increase in the city's sales tax revenue in 2007.

In 2007, Steamboat Springs collected $19.7 million in sales tax revenue, compared to $18.1 million the year before, according to sales tax figures released Wednesday.

"We took a very conservative approach to budgeting last year's sales tax - we projected a 3 percent increase," said Kim Weber, revenue supervisor for the city of Steamboat Springs. "We were happy to see that we came in over 8 percent for the year. It's a good sign."

Lodging saw a slight downshift in December, dropping 2.1 percent from 2006 figures, a loss Weber attributed to the ski season's slow start.

"December was kind of a slow snow month at the beginning, although it certainly picked up later," Weber said.

Early December's relatively mild weather also contributed to the slow growth in utilities tax revenue, which rose less than half a percent from 2006 figures, Weber said.

The lodging slump was the major factor in the mountain area's small decrease in sales tax collections, Weber said. The mountain area took in $731,176 in sales tax revenue in December, a 2.21 percent decrease from $747,684 in 2006.

The mountain area and lodging were hit hard in November by ongoing construction projects and the postponed opening of the ski area. Sales tax collection in the mountain area was cut by nearly 48 percent, dipping to $71,681 compared to $137,797 in 2006. December was the third straight month of decreasing sales for the mountain, which suffered a nearly 13 percent revenue decrease in October.

Building use tax

Revenue from the city's building use tax nearly tripled in 2007, due to the city's ongoing construction. Collections rose from $2 million in 2006 to $5.7 million in 2007.

"As expected, our building use tax was way up because of the large projects going on," Weber said.

Building use tax revenue tends to fluctuate from month to month, depending on when payments come in for each development. In October, the city's building use tax collection increased by more than 4,000 percent - from $64,832 in 2006 to $2.7 million.

December posted a more modest rise of roughly 38 percent.

Holiday season sales

Retail figures for December confirm that holiday season sales were strong for local merchants, Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Executive Director Tracy Barnett said.

Miscellaneous retail sales jumped nearly 9 percent from 2006 levels in December, bringing in nearly $1.2 million in sales tax.

Although many local retailers reported

that sales were disappointing early in the holiday season, everything really kicked in the weekend before Christmas, Barnett said.

The downtown area saw sales tax revenues rise 6.11 percent, from $803,549 in 2006 to $852,617 in 2007. December marked downtown's sixth straight month of sales tax gains, after a four-month slump in spring and early summer.

Compared to other Colorado resort communities, Steamboat posted the second highest annual revenue gain, bested only by Breckenridge's 9.15 percent increase. Winter Park, Aspen and Vail trailed with year-to-date gains between 5 and 7 percent.

With its 6.82 percent increase, Steamboat also posted the second highest sales tax gain for the month of December, trailing Winter Park by about 2 percent. Vail posted a 0.2 percent loss in sales tax revenue from its December 2006 levels.

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