Hayden sales tax revenue down 12 percent in 2010 | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden sales tax revenue down 12 percent in 2010

Town budgeted for 10 percent decrease in collections from 2009

Blythe Terrell

— Hayden's sales tax collections are down 12 percent for the 2010 budget year, reflecting the dip in the economy that town officials expected.

The Town Council budgeted for a 10 percent decrease in sales tax revenues for this year compared with 2009. The 12 percent decrease for the first three months means that the town is about $3,600 behind where it expected to be.

"At first glance, it looked bad, and to tell you the truth, it is lower than what we expected," Finance Director Lisa Dow­­ling said. "But once the numbers shook out, we're not that much lower than what we forecast: We're only $4,000 off the mark. But (January) was a big month. It should have been a big month."

Sales taxes collected in January show up on Hayden's books for March.

Collections were down to $85,771 from $109,910 in 2009 — a 22 percent decrease — according to figures from Dow­ling. The 2010 figure is 47 percent lower than the record $162,447 collected for the same month in 2008.

Historically, Hayden businesses collect the most sales tax in January, February and March. Because there's a two-month lag, those numbers show up in the town's March, April and May revenue numbers.

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The town has brought in $205,392 in sales tax from January through March, reflecting business in November, Dec­ember and January. That's a nearly 12 percent decrease from 2009. Total collections in 2009 were down more than 23 percent from 2008.

With March numbers (from January collections), Hayden is entering prime time for income from Yampa Valley Regional Airport. Of its sales tax revenues for the month, Dowling said, 57 percent came from businesses at the airport.

Sales tax revenues were down 27.5 percent for YVRA and 17.4 percent for town businesses in January, she said.

Downtown business owners said they were experiencing a slow period.

Stacy Magee owns Wolf Mountain Pizza. She bought the restaurant a year ago and then moved it to a larger location down the street last summer.

"I would say January, Feb­ruary sales for me were definitely down from what they had been, and I've not seen much in the way of them picking up yet," Magee said. "But my understanding — this is my first year to own the restaurant for a full year — and my understanding is this is normally the slower time."

Lori Fournier leases and runs the HiWay Bar across Jeff­­er­son Avenue.

"It's been up and down," she said. "January wasn't great. We are just now starting to pick up in March. I'm thinking we're probably on the same pace as Steamboat, and they've got the mountain."

She and Fournier said they were trying to be innovative in an effort to draw customers. Fournier has run a monthly sushi night and offers karaoke with a disc jockey on Fridays. Magee also runs specials and offers space for children's birthday parties.

She said she expects customer flow to improve in spring.

"I bought the business March 1," Magee said. "As it became warmer … we just gradually saw an increase every single month, and I'm hoping to see that this year."

New income

The town has started collecting income from its additional tax on lodging and car rentals. Hayden voters approved the 3.5 percent sales tax last fall, and it went into effect Jan. 1. That money is kept separate from other sales tax collection figures, Town Manager Russ Martin said.

The town has collected money from January and is scheduled to receive February's this week.

"We could tell that car rentals were going to be down, that gives us a little bit of a predictor, but it was good," Martin said.

The town collected about $25,000 for January through the new tax, he said.

Aaron Wiltfong operates Budget Rent A Car at YVRA and had opposed the additional tax on car-rental agencies. There is little nightly lodging in Hayden, so the tax was expected to bring little revenue from that source.

"The feedback from customers, of course, we have a lot of feedback from customers," Wiltfong said. "They weren't real tickled pink about it or anything. In fact, they asked where there was a petition they could sign."

The new tax measure made YVRA's car rental fees and taxes 37 percent of the cost to rent a car, according to figures Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. released last year. Fees and taxes previously accounted for 33 percent of the cost.

With the new tax, Wiltfong said it appeared that Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which operates outside of YVRA, was doing better than his operation and his wife's. Kay Wiltfong operates Avis Rent A Car at the airport.

"I think that what I'm seeing here is the prices got so high is it really pushed people to start shopping," Aaron Wiltfong said.

The new tax rules don't dictate where revenues from the car-rental and lodging tax will go. Martin said last year that possible uses for the money include doing street work, strengthening the town's reserves and investing in promotional activities.

Looking ahead

Town officials aren't brushing off the decrease in sales tax collections, but they're not panicking, either.

"We're a little concerned, but it's (just) a little concerned," Martin said. "We're not going nuts here yet."

Hayden's 2010 budget projects $769,500 in sales tax collections. If the numbers that come in during the next two months also are down more than expected, reflecting a decrease in February and March collections, the Town Council might have to revisit the budget this summer.

Martin noted that the figure for January sales tax collections was the lowest he'd seen for the month. Martin became town manager in 2004.

"When I saw the number, I knew exactly what it meant for March because I literally have never seen a number since I've been here that low" for the month, he said. "When I got here in March, that was the first number I saw was $87,000. … It's really kind of, 'Wow.' It makes us make sure we're keeping track of things pretty tight."

By the numbers

Hayden sales tax collections*

■ January 2004: $87,257

2004 total: $735,412

■ January 2005: $104,494

2005 total: $809,152

■ January 2006: $104,953

2006 total: $942,688

■ January 2007: $120,325

2007 total: $1,019,340

■ January 2008: $162,447

2008 total: $1,120,531

■ January 2009: $109,910

2009 total: $858,946

■ January 2010: $85,771

2010 projected: $769,500

Hayden is $3,629 below its projected 2010 budget, which includes an expected 10 percent decrease in sales tax revenue.

*Numbers released in March reflect sales tax collected in January

Source: Town of Hayden