Grand Valley tax collections on the rise

Phil Castle
Phil Castle

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Tax collections continue to increase in the Grand Valley, gains bolstered in part by more sales in the automotive, construction and industry sectors.

The City of Grand Junction reported a 10.6 percent increase in sales and use tax collections in August compared to the same month last year. Mesa County reported an even larger increase at 18.6 percent, the biggest gain year-over-year gain since 2011. August collections reflect July sales.

Meanwhile, though, lodging tax collections declined 3.3 percent in August, a reflection of less business for the hospitality sector in Grand Junction.

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

The city collected a total of nearly $4.5 million in sales and use taxes in August. That’s an increase of more than $430,000 over the same month last year. Sales tax collections rose 5.7 percent. Use tax collections, a smaller and more volatile portion of revenue for the city, surged 186.8 percent on increased activity in the energy and construction industries.

Jodi Romero, financial operations director for the city, said the latest sales tax numbers reflect growth in automobile and building materials categories.

Mesa County collected a total of nearly $2.9 million in sales and use taxes in August. That’s an increase of more than $448,000 over the same month last year. Sales tax collections rose 18.5 percent. Use tax collections rose 19.1 percent on increased sales of automobiles purchased outside the county, but used in the county.

Eleanor Thomas, county budget manager, attributed the increase in sales tax collections to growth in the oil and natural gas, telecommunications and home improvement sectors. Tax collections on retail sales rose 5.3 percent.

The latest numbers bring year-to-date sales and use tax collections for the city to a total of more than $34.6 million. That’s an increase of nearly $1.7 million and 5 percent over the same span last year. Sales tax collections rose 4.5 percent, while use tax collections were up 27.7 percent.

Tax revenues have outpaced what was initially budgeted for 2017 by 4.7 percent. Romero said revenue collected above what’s budgeted will be added to fund reserves. The Grand Junction City Council can elect to use that revenue or leave it in the fund balance for 2018, she said.

For Mesa County, year-to-date sales and use tax collections totaled almost $21.6 million. That’s an increase of more than $1.2 million  and 6.1 percent over the same span last year. Sales tax collections rose 6.5 percent, while use tax collections were up 2.2 percent.

Tax revenues have topped what was initially budgeted by 3.8 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.

Lodging tax collections, a measure of the hospitality business in Grand Junction, totaled $155,028 in August. That’s a decrease of $5,237 compared to the same month last year. August collections reflect hotel and motel stays in July.

At $920,757, year-to-date lodging taxes still exceed what was collected for the same span in 2016 by $14,984 and 1.7 percent.