For more about what the decline in sales tax receipts and other revenues will mean for the city's 2009 budget, see Sunday's Steamboat Pilot & Today.
By the numbers
City sales tax collections for December*
Total: $2,326,827, 9.1 percent decrease
2008 through December: $19,869,928, 0.6 percent increase
- Miscellaneous retail: $1,143,940, 7.2 percent decrease
- Lodging: $461,078, 8.9 percent decrease
- Sporting goods: $200,177, 20.8 percent decrease
- Utilities: $178,050, 4.2 percent decrease
- Restaurants: $265,062, 8.6 percent decrease
- Liquor stores: $78,520, 13.8 percent decrease
- Town: $344,259, 12.2 percent decrease
- Mountain - combined: $620,523, 15.9 percent decrease
- U.S. Highway 40 corridor: $845,807, 1.3 percent decrease
- Regional: $313,317, 2 percent decrease
- West Steamboat: $202,921, 19.7 percent decrease
*compared with December 2007
- December 2008 Sales, Use and Accommodation Tax Report
Steamboat Springs Declining sales tax revenues could mean multi-million dollar budget cuts for the city of Steamboat Springs this year.
Steamboat Springs' total sales tax collections were about 9 percent less in December than in the same month in 2007, making it the fourth consecutive down month in 2008.
Based on the decreased receipts, the Steamboat Springs City Council plans to reopen the 2009 city budget at meetings in early March. The council could be looking at a multi-million dollar budget cut at those meetings, Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski said.
The city's December 2008 Sales, Use and Accommodation Tax Report showed a decline in sales tax collections for the month, from $2.56 million in 2007 to $2.33 million in 2008. Those figures put the year-to-date total sales tax collections for 2008 just more than 0.6 percent higher than in 2007.
The December figures pushed the city's total 2008 sales tax receipts about $370,000 over its budget for the year, said Assistant Finance Director Bob Litzau.
"It's less than we'd originally expected," Litzau said, adding that those expectations have changed since the beginning of 2008. "Based on what we've seen the economy do at the end of the year, it's probably about what we expected or better."
Steamboat's sales tax collection figures were down 8.8 percent in November, 4.3 percent in October and 3.8 percent in September compared with 2007.
Those numbers take into account a sharp decline in sales tax revenues from the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority, which includes business areas around the base of Mount Werner, Litzau said.
"Basically, when Ski Time Square was torn down, that has an impact on the sales tax that's collected in that area," he said. SSRA sales tax receipts were down 270.3 percent in December compared to the same month in 2007.
Discounting SSRA figures, the city's general fund sales tax receipts declined 6.7 percent in December from 2007, and increased 2.3 percent for 2008.
City budget cuts looming
If sales tax collections for January show a decrease similar to December's, the Steamboat Springs City Council could be looking at a cut of $2 million when it reopens the 2009 budget, Hermacinski said.
A 1-percent decrease in sales tax revenues in any month in 2009 equates to a necessary spending cut of about $180,000, Hermacinski said, adding up to just less than $2 million based on December's numbers. But the decrease in sales tax collections could be much larger, and the cut could be much deeper, Hermacinski said - possibly as much as $4 million. Firm figures for January will not be available until March.
"My sense is, from what we're hearing from business owners, was that January was significantly worse than December," Hermacinski said.
Litzau said city staff is in the process of formulating additional budget cuts to take to City Council. The cuts are based on decreased sales tax revenues, he said, and could be far-reaching. "It'll be on all levels, all departments. It'll affect personnel costs, it'll affect operating costs, it'll affect capital projects," Litzau said.
Revenue expectations change quickly with a changing economic climate, he said, making it difficult to predict what sales tax receipts will look like for the first months of 2009.
Sales down overall
The city divides sales tax collection figures into six categories: miscellaneous retail, lodging, sporting goods, utilities, restaurants and liquor stores. In December, the numbers for of those categories were down compared to 2007, making it the only month in 2008 during which all categories posted a decrease in sales tax collections compared to the previous year.
Litzau said it's difficult to predict what a revenue category will do from month to month and that he was "not overly surprised" to see a decrease in all categories.
"Things are down - people aren't spending," he said. "I think it's pretty much across the board that they weren't spending money; it wasn't just one thing."
About 12,500 visitors are expected in Steamboat this weekend, which is about 1,600 fewer people than came to town for Presidents Day weekend in 2008.
According to this week's lodging barometer released by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, 83 percent of Steamboat's lodging is booked for Saturday, down from 94 percent for the same weekend in 2008. Because the barometer is released weekly Wednesday, the number of "projected pillows" for this weekend could increase with last-minute guests.
During Winter Carnival weekend, guests filled 84 percent of Steamboat loading, topping an anticipated 78 percent. Lodging downtown and along the U.S. Highway 40 corridor was full Feb. 7. According to this week's barometer, 64 percent of Steamboat's pillow spaces are booked for Feb. 18, and 67 percent are booked for Feb. 21.