Increased tax collections bolster outlook for remainder of year

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Year-over-year increases in tax collections have local government officials more optimistic about a key economic indicator and source of revenue.

“I think some things are working to our favor,” said Jodi Romero, financial operations director for the City of Grand Junction.

Eleanor Thomas, Mesa County budget manager, agreed. “I hope it continues.”

The city reported a 4.2 percent increase in sales and use tax collections for April. At 10.4 percent, the county increase was the largest since February 2015. April collections reflect March sales.

Romero and Thomas said gains were spread out among a number of categories, including not only retail sales, but also building materials and restaurant meals.

The city reported collecting a total of more than $4.39 million in sales and use tax revenues in April. Compared to the same month last year, sales tax collections increased nearly $187,000 or 5.2 percent. That more than an offset an $18,437 decline in the more volatile use tax collections.

Romero said the numbers reflected increased sales of building materials and restaurant meals as well as merchandise sold at large department and so-called super stores. Sales in the general merchandise category constitute a good indicator of the economy and consumer confidence, she said, because a lot of residents shop at those outlets.

Sales at such specialty retailers as electronics and sporting goods stores remains down, Romero said, possibly as a result of more online purchases.

The April numbers bring year-to-date city tax collections to more than $16.6 million. Compared to the same span last year, that’s four-tenths of a percent more. Sales tax collections edged up almost 1 percent, more than offsetting a 2 percent drop in use tax collections.

Given the latest indicators as well as the prospects for a strong tourism season, Romero said she expects collections to top last year. “I would be surprised to see us lag last year from this point on.”

At this point, though, any increase in tax collections over what’s budgeted would go into a fund balance, she said.

The county reported collecting a total of nearly $2.47 million in sales and use taxes in April. Compared to the same month last year, sales tax collections rose 10.3 percent and use tax collections rose 11.4 percent.

Thomas said with only a few exceptions, tax collections were up in most categories. Overall tax collections increased 5.9 percent on retail sales despite a 12.8 percent drop in sales of sporting goods. Tax collections increased 4.1 percent in the construction industry category and  6.2 percent in the hotel and restaurant category. While the actual dollar amount was small, the proportional increase was large at 68.7 percent for sales in the oil and natural gas category.

Use tax collections reflected a 12 percent increase on automotive sales.

The April numbers bring year-to-date county tax collections to more than $10 million. That’s a 1.4 percent increase over the same span last year. Sales tax collections were up 1.4 percent, while use tax collections rose almost 1 percent.

While Thomas said she’s more optimistic about sales tax collections moving forward, she also said it’s too early to change what’s projected as a half-percent increase in 2017 over 2016.

Lodging tax collections rebound

A measure of hotel and motel stays in Grand Junction has rebounded after five consecutive months of declines.

Visit Grand Junction reported that $101,583 in lodging taxes were collected in April. That’s an increase of  $5,288 and 5.5 percent over the same month last year. April collections reflect hotel and motel stays in March.

With the April gain, year-to-date lodging tax collections total $298,976. That’s $407 over what was collected for the same span in 2016.

Meanwhile, 814 visits to the Grand Junction Visitor Center were reported for April, an 8.4 percent increase over the same month last year. The gain brings the year-to-date total to 2,064, a 2.5 percent gain over the same span in 2016.

Unique visits to the website located at were up 1 percent through the first four months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. Requests for visitor guides have edged down nearly 1 percent.