Pace of sales tax collections slows

Phil Castle, The Business Times

The pace of sales tax collections in Grand Junction and Mesa County has slowed, but year-to-date totals remain ahead of last year.

Grand Junction reported only a slight gain in monthly sales and use tax collections in July, while Mesa County reported a nearly 1 percent drop in sales tax collections compared to the same month last year.

Still, taxes collected so far in 2012 continue to exceed budget projections as well as reflect an increase in the retail activity that generates taxes.

According to its July report, the city collected more than $4.42 million in sales and use tax revenues, up 0.2 percent from collections in the report for July 2011.

Since tax reports lag a month behind, July reports reflect retail sales in June.

Year-over-year gains in collections have declined in each of the last three months.

Jodi Romero, financial operations manager for the city, said collections sometimes slow during election years as consumers put off large purchases because of uncertainty over who will be elected and what will happen.

According to reports for the first seven months of 2012, however, the city has collected a total of more than $29 million in sales and use taxes. That’s an increase of 

3.2 percent from the same span last year. Those reports reflect sales from December through June.

Romero said she expects sales tax collections for the year to exceed budget projections and forecasts tax collections to increase another 3 percent next year.

Election-year uncertainty aside, gross retail sales in Grand Junction in June were up almost 15 percent compared to a year ago, Romero said. By comparison, gross retail sales nationwide were up 5.6 percent in March. Gross retail sales include taxable and nontaxable sales. The city does not collect taxes on the sale of food, gasoline and medicine, for example.

According to a city report for the second quarter, there were year-over-year increases in tax collections for nearly every category of goods and every geographic district.

The sales of such miscellaneous retail merchandise as appliances, clothing, electronics and furniture were up 6.4 percent. At 19 percent of overall collections, that category is the single largest for the city.

Sales tax collections were up more than 10 percent from the district along U.S. Highway 6 & 50, 7.4 percent in the district that includes Mesa Mall and the 24 Road corridor and 5 percent in the district along North Avenue.

According to its July report, Mesa County collected a total of $2.33 million in sales taxes for its capital improvement and general funds. That’s a decrease of nearly

1 percent from the report for the same month last year, and only the second decline in monthly collections in nearly two years.

Marcia Arnhold, finance director for Mesa County, said there have been fluctuations in the July report going back to 2010, when nearly $660,000 in collections were refunded following a state audit. As a result, collections for July 2010 were down nearly 20 percent from the previous year, then up more than 36 percent in July 2011.

For reports for January through July 2012, the county collected a total of almost $16 million for its capital improvement and general funds, an increase of more than 7 percent from the same span in 2011.

Even if monthly tax collections continue to slow, Arnold said she expects overall collections to exceed budget projections.

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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