County sales tax revenues up second straight month

For a second straight month, Mesa County has reported an increase in sales tax collections over last year.

According to the October report, which reflects consumer spending the month before, the county collected $2.96 million in sales tax revenues. That’s a 3.15 percent increase over the report for October 2009.

However, October 2010 revenues were down from September 2010, when the county reported $3.04 million in collections. That’s a reverse of last year’s trend in which collections were higher in October than September.

According to reports filed during the first 10 months of 2010, the county has collected a total of $27.67 million. That’s an 8.83 percent drop from the same period last year. For all of 2009, collections dropped 20.72 percent from 2008, following a nationwide and local trend for government entities.

The increase in year-to-year collections for the past two months reverses a trend that had played out since November 2008. That was the last month prior to the September 2010 report in which sales tax collections increased over the same month the previous year.

“It’s still too early to tell if this indicates the start of a trend,” Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis stated in a news release. “But after double-digit declines in 2009 and 2010, this is certainly a good sign and we’re hopeful that things are starting to look up for our local economy.”

Marcia Arnhold, finance director for Mesa County, noted that year-to-date sales tax collections remain 8.8 percent below the same span in 2010. Nonetheless, two months of year-over-year increases offer a measure of hope, Arnhold said. “It does make us cautiously optimistic that we may be able to meet our end-of-year projections. We’ll watch the next couple of months very carefully and hope to see an upward trend.”

The county is considering a 2011 budget that’s 10.3 percent lower than the budget adopted for 2010. At $141.95 million, this year’s budget was 8.4 percent lower than the 2009 budget.

County officials plans to cut 45 additional jobs, freeze salaries for employees who remain, close some county branch offices and eliminate funding for the Grand Junction Economic Partnership.

The picture looks even bleaker for 2012, when reduced property values will likely lead to a substantial drop in property tax collections.

Severance tax dollars from energy companies will likely dwindle as well because of decreased natural gas extraction as compared to 2007 and 2008. Moreover, the state might tap severance tax dollars to help balance the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.