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Local tax collections rebound

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Marcia Arnhold can count more than 2 million reasons she feels more confident about her projections for sales tax collections in Mesa County.

In fact, the county reported collecting a total of $2.14 million in sales taxes for its capital improvement and general funds in November.

That number represents a nearly 9.6 percent increase over the same month last year and ends a four-month string of year-over-year declines in collections.

“This makes us a feel a little more comfortable,” said Arnhold, finance director for the county.

Tax collections not only fill government coffers, but also offer a key measure of local sales.

Combined sales and use tax collections for the City of Grand Junction increased 2 percent on the strength of a jump in use tax tax revenues. But declining sales tax collections in the latest monthly and quarterly reports have city administrators closely monitoring the situation.

Elizabeth Tice, revenue supervisor for the city, suspects that uncertainty continues to affect consumer spending.

For Mesa County, overall collections for 2012 will exceed 2011 by 4 percent, even if sales tax collections reported in December remain flat, Arnhold said. Only a month ago, Arnold had revised downward her projected increase for 2012 to 3 percent.

Arnold has projected another 4 percent increase in tax collections for 2013 — a gain she deems “normal” given historical patterns.

According to the November report, Mesa County collected nearly $1.5 million in sales taxes for its capital improvement fund and almost $665,000 for its general fund. Another $812,000 was distributed to cities and  towns in the county, more than half of that to Grand Junction.

Since tax reports lag a month behind, the November report reflects October sales.

According to reports for the first 11 months of 2012, Mesa County has collected a total of nearly $24.8 million in sales taxes for its capital improvement and general funds. Almost $9.4 million has been distributed to cities and towns in the county. Those numbers represent a 4.4 percent increase over the same span last year.

Arnold said the 2013 county budget reflects increasing sales tax revenues — particularly in the $41 million allocated for capital projects. “That’s a big chunk of money out there.”

County officials, including Arnold, expect that spending to help bolster economic and job growth and, in the process, sales tax collections.

According to its report for November, the City of Grand Junction collected a total of almost $4 million in sales and use taxes.  After three months of year-over-year declines, the latest report reflects a 2 percent gain over collections reported at this time last year.

While use tax collections surged nearly 47 percent compared to the same month last year, sales tax collections within the city limits edged down eight-tenths of a percent. The city share of county sales tax collections fell 2.4 percent.

Counting reports for the first 11 months of 2012, the city has collected a total of $45.5 million in sales and use taxes. That’s an increase of 1.7 percent over the same span last year.

The year-to-date number reflects a 12.3 percent decrease in use tax collections, but a 2.6 percent increase in sales tax collections within the city and a 4.2 percent gain in the county share of sales tax.

Jodi Romero, financial operations director for the city, said tax revenues for 2012 will meet budget projections.

Romero projects a 3 percent increase in sales and use tax collections in the 2013 budget. While spending for capital projects is expected to increase next year, the overall budget is slightly lower at $145.8 million. That will give the city some flexibility should tax collections decline, she said.

Meanwhile, Tice and Romero said they continue to closely monitor tax collections in the event adjustments are required.

A separate report for the third quarter offers a more detailed look at how much tax revenues are coming in, from the sales of what types of products and from what geographic business districts within the city.

Combined sales and use tax collections during the third quarter totaled almost $12.7 million, a dip of six-tenths of a percent compared to the same quarter last year. While sales tax collections within the city rose 1.7 percent, the city’s share of county tax collections fell 1.1 percent. Meanwhile, use tax collections declined 21.3 percent.

Tax collections from the sales of clothing, electronics, furniture and other miscellaneous retail products — the largest single category for the city — increased 7.6 percent. Tax collections rose 9.5 percent for oil and natural gas extraction, 7 percent from liquor stores and 4.5 percent from restaurants and bars. Collections from motor vehicle sales increased 1.9 percent.

At the same time, though, tax collections from the construction sector declined 7.5 percent. Tax collections from the sale of general merchandise retreated 1.5 percent.

Out of 13 sales tax collection districts within the city, eight districts reported increased collections and five reported decreases during the third quarter of 2012 compared to the same quarter in 2011.

The largest gains were reported for the district along U.S. Highway 6 & 50 from First Street all the way to the Fruita city limits and an industrial district south of downtown. Collections in both districts increased 7.4 percent. The North Avenue district reported a 3.6 percent gain, while collections edged up four-tenths of a percent at the Mesa Mall along 24 Road.

By far the largest decrease in tax collections occurred along the Interstate 70 Business Loop from downtown Grand Junction to I-70, where collections dropped nearly 26 percent.

Collections fell 4.6 percent along Patterson Road and edged down three-tenths of a percent in the downtown business district.

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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