Grand Valley sales tax collections continue to rise

Phil Castle
Phil Castle

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Tax collections continue to rise in the Grand Valley on increasing sales of automobiles, building materials and restaurant meals.

The City of Grand Junction reported a 7.2 percent increase in sales tax collections in July over the same month last year. Mesa County reported an even larger proportional gain at 8.8 percent. July collections reflect June sales.

Sales tax collections have increased on a year-over-year basis four consecutive months for the city and five straight months for the county.

“We’re doing awesome,” said Eleanor Thomas, county budget manager. “These are big numbers.”

The city collected a total of more than $4.8 million in sales and use taxes in July. That’s an increase of $323,387 and 7.2 percent over the same month last year. A 7.2 percent gain in sales tax collections more than offset a 5.3 percent  decline in use tax collections, a smaller and more volatile portion of revenue.

Jodi Romero, financial operations director for the city, said the latest numbers reflect increased sales for automobiles and building materials, two large categories. Sales also have increased at restaurants even as tourism has grown. Sales at general merchandise outlets, including large grocery stores and department stores, has increased as well, something Romero considers a broader economic indicator.

Mesa County collected a total of more than $3 million in sales and use taxes in July. That’s an increase of $171,446 and 5.9 percent over the same month last year. An 8.8 percent gain in sales tax collections more than offset a 17.1 percent drop in use tax collections on automobiles and building materials purchased outside Mesa County, but used in the county.

The increase in county sales tax collections reflected gains in the most industry sectors. That included the auto, oil and natural gas and telecommunications sectors. Tax collections were up 3.4 percent on retail sales and 11.3 percent in other industries.

The latest numbers bring year-to-date sales and use tax collections for the city to a total of more than $30.1 million. That’s an increase of more than $1.2 million and 4.2 percent over last year. Sales tax collections rose 4.3 percent, while use tax collections were up 7.9 percent.

Combined city sales and use tax collections also have outpaced what initially was budgeted for 2017 by 3.9 percent. Romero said she’ll likely have to adjust the budgeted amount for revenues, but won’t change what’s budgeted for expenses. The Grand Junction City Council can elect to use revenues that come in above budgeted expenses or leave them in the fund balance for 2018, she said.

Romero said the budget for 2018 could include what she described as a conservative projection of a 1 percent to 2 percent increase in sales tax revenues.

For Mesa County, year-to-date sales and use tax collections total more than $18.7 million. That’s an increase of more than $788,000 and 4.4 percent over  2016. Sales tax collections rose 4.9 percent, while use tax collections edged down a tenth of a percent.

Combined sales and use tax collections have exceeded what initially was budgeted by 2.9 percent.

Thomas said there’s a possibility the county could have to refund some of that revenue under the terms of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, the state constitutional amendment that restricts government spending and taxing. TABOR limits increases in tax revenues according to a formula that takes into account inflation and population growth.

If a refund is required, the county likely would do so through property taxes, Thomas said.

TABOR limits also apply to the city. But city voters approved in April a ballot measure allowing the city to pay for street maintenance using tax revenues collected above limits and originally earmarked to pay back bonds sold to finance the Riverside Parkway.