Ace at the Curve employee Cooper Barnett, left, helps longtime local Tom Clapsaddle with a bird feeder Monday afternoon at the West Steamboat Springs home improvement store. Denny Swanson, a partner in the Ace store, said Monday he is seeing more customers shopping for home improvement items lately.

Photo by John F. Russell

Ace at the Curve employee Cooper Barnett, left, helps longtime local Tom Clapsaddle with a bird feeder Monday afternoon at the West Steamboat Springs home improvement store. Denny Swanson, a partner in the Ace store, said Monday he is seeing more customers shopping for home improvement items lately.

August sales tax down more than 20 percent

Lodging, sporting goods, retail all take significant hits compared to August 2008

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Sales tax highlights

Category / August '09 / August '08 / Percent change

Total sales tax / $1.3 million / $1.6 million / -20.4

Misc. retail / $670,526 / $869,510 / -22.9

Lodging / $158,962 / $209,316 / -24

Sporting goods / $64,842 / $84,738 / -23.5

Utilities / $114,960 / $125,481 / -8.4

Restaurants / $221,553 / $261,755 / -15.4

Liquor stores / $52,544 / $61,736 / -14.9

Area

Downtown / $269,349 / $336,798 / -20

Mountain area / $158,662 / $210,255 / -24.5

U.S. 40 corridor / $532,046 / $627,013 / -15

Regional / $136,554 / $175,304 / -22

West Steamboat / $186,775 / $263,166 / -29

Building-use tax / $152,679 / $193,476 / -21.1

Source: City of Steamboat Springs August 2009 sales tax report

— Steamboat Springs sales tax revenues decreased 20.4 percent in August compared to the same month in 2008, placing the city's year-to-date collections at about 17.2 percent, or about $2.3 million, less than last year's.

August sales tax fell from about $1.6 million in August 2008 to less than $1.3 million this year, according to a report city officials released Monday. Those numbers drop year-to-date collections from about $13.8 million through August 2008 to about $11.5 million through August 2009.

All sales categories and all regions showed decreases in August. Miscellaneous retail sales throughout the city fell about $200,000, a drop of nearly 23 percent compared to August 2008.

Sales tax collections in West Steamboat fell nearly 30 percent, from about $263,000 in August 2008 to about $187,000 in August 2009.

City revenue supervisor Kim Weber noted Monday that a 20 percent sales tax drop for a month is not atypical during the ongoing recession.

"We've had 21 in March, 20 in June and 18 in July," she said, citing the percentages of decrease for those months compared to the corresponding months from 2008.

Building-use tax also decreased sharply in August of this year, falling by about 21 percent - from $193,476 in August 2008 to $152,679 this year.

Building-use tax "has been taking a big hit," Weber said. "There's just very little to no building going on. We're getting a few permits coming in, and we're getting a few reconciliations."

Building-use taxes for permits relate to new construction, while tax reconciliations relate to construction that has been completed, Weber said.

Denny Swanson, partner in the Ace at the Curve hardware store in West Steamboat, said although August sales at the store were down - but not as far down as city sales tax, he noted - he is seeing an increase in home improvement spending.

"We're having more homeowners come in who are starting to work on projects in their homes," Swanson said.

"We're definitely seeing more of that going on. : They're not fixing it up to sell : they're just fixing it up for their own use."

Swanson said the city's August sales tax figures did not surprise him.

"Not just in West Steamboat, but around town, that's kind of the number that you're hearing from quite a few (business owners), 20 percent give or take," he said Monday.

Swanson said that although Ace is not seeing a decrease in customers compared to last year, the people who are coming in are "just not buying the big-ticket items."

"If your toilet breaks, you have to fix it," Swanson said.

Weber said the monthly sales tax comparisons could soon be less dramatic, as recessionary months in late 2008 are compared to recessionary months this year.

"I'm hoping that the decrease will be less in the next four months, because September of '08 was the first month where we started seeing decreases. So essentially we'll start comparing to a worse number, so potentially the decreases won't be as large," she said. "Time will tell."

- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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