January sales tax collections a mixed bag

Phil Castle
Phil Castle

Phil Castle, The Business Times

If sales tax collections are any indication, the holiday shopping season in the Grand Valley constituted something of a mixed bag.

“There were no clear winners and losers. It’s a real mixed bag,” said Jodi Romero, financial operations director for the City of Grand Junction.

The city reported a 1.5 percent increase in combined sales and use tax collections for January compared to the same month last year.

Mesa County reported a 6.3 percent decline in over-year-year sales and use tax collections in January, a decrease attributed to lower sales in the oil and gas sector and fewer automobile sales. Holiday shopping was “flat,” said Eleanor Thomas, county budget manager.

January collections reflect December sales and usually constitute the single largest month of the year for sales tax revenues.

The city reported collecting a total of more than $5.2 million in sales and use taxes in January, an increase of $78,416 over the same month last year. Sales tax collections increased 2.2 percent. Use taxes collections, a smaller and more volatile portion of revenue, dropped 25.1 percent.

Romero said sales were down in the oil and gas sector as well as for building materials. While she said she’s still analyzing the data, the fourth quarter was not a strong one. “It was not a good quarter for a lot of areas.”

Still, Romero said she’s glad tax collections increased in January. “Overall, it’s good news.” She also said she remains confident what’s budgeted as a 2 percent increase in sales tax collections for 2016 will materialize.

Mesa County reported collecting a total of more than $2.9 million in sales and use taxes in January, a decrease of almost $195,000 from the same month last year. Proportionally, the decrease was the largest since year-over-year collections dropped 5.4 percent in May 2013, Thomas said.

In 2015, Mesa County collections retreated only once — 3.4 percent in November.

For January, sale tax collections fell 5 percent. Retail sales tax collections slipped six-tenths of a percent, while collections were down for 14 out of 17 industry categories. County use tax collections fell 18.7 percent, nearly all of that attributable to a drop in automobile sales. Thomas said the decline wasn’t unexpected given national reports of lagging holiday sales as well continued slowing in the local energy sector related to low oil and natural gas prices.

Still, the January decline constitutes only a fraction of the overall revenues budgeted to come in during 2016, Thomas said.