Auto sales bolster tax collections

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Tax collections continue to rise in the Grand Valley, a gain one official attributed in part to automotive sales.

The City of Grand Junction reported a  5.8 percent increase in sales tax collections in August, the largest monthly proportional gain in year-over-year collections in a year.

Mesa County reported a more modest  1.4 percent increase in sales tax collections, but a 30.5 percent increase in use tax collections.

August tax collections reflect July sales.

Overall, sales and use tax collections for both the city and county continue to outpace last year as well as budget projections.

“I think it’s good news. I’m glad it continues to show strong,” said Jodi Romero, financial operations director for the city.

The city reported collecting a total of $4.33 million in sales and use taxes in August. That’s an increase of nearly $160,000 and 3.8 percent over the same month last year. Use tax collections dropped 40 percent, but the 5.8 percent gain in sales tax more than offset the difference.

Romero attributed a “major portion” of the increase in city collections to automotive sales. Increased sales related to tourism continue to bolster the numbers, as do sales related to home improvement and the upcoming hunting seasons, she said.

It’s possible back-to-school shopping also affected the numbers, Romero said.

Mesa County reported collecting a total of almost $2.84 million in sales and use taxes in August. That’s an increase of nearly $126,000 and 4.6 percent over the same month last year.

County tax collections from retail sales were up 5.5 percent, with other gains related to home improvement and hotel and restaurant sales.

Eleanor Thomas, budget manager for Mesa County, said she didn’t see any clear indicators of increased back-to-school shopping in the latest numbers, although that could show up next month.

Thomas said the portion of county use taxes collected for automobiles rose more than 32 percent in August compared to the same month last year.

The increase in use tax also reflects the use of large mobile equipment in Mesa County, including equipment used to construct the new City Market store in Grand Junction, Thomas said.

For reports through the first eight months of 2015, the city reported collecting a total of almost $33.8 million in sales and use taxes. That’s an increase of nearly $1.2 million and 3.6 percent over the same span in 2014. Sales tax collections were up 2.4 percent, while use tax collections rose 23 percent. Year-to-date tax collections have outpaced the budget by 1.2 percent.

Romero said she expects year-over-year tax collections to continue to increase, although at a more moderate pace. The city has tentatively budgeted a 2 percent increase in sales tax collections in 2016.

The county reported collecting a total of more than $21.4 million through the first eight months of 2015. That’s an increase of  almost $1.2 million and 5.9 percent over the same span in 2014. Year-to-date tax collections have outpaced budget projections by 3.1 percent.

The county has budgeted a 3 percent increase in sales tax collections in 2016.