Officials: 2015 off to “good start” with higher tax collections

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Jodi Romero summarizes sales and use tax collections with four words: so far, so good.

Reports for the first quarter of 2015 reflect a 4.1 percent year-over-year increase in sales and use tax collections for the City of Grand Junction. While the overall amount was lower, the proportional gain was even greater for Mesa County at 7.9 percent.

“It’s a good start, and we hope it continues,” said Romero, financial operations director for the city.

Eleanor Thomas, budget manager for the county, agreed, but added a caveat. “We’ll have to get a few more months under out belt and see where we’re going.”

Sales tax collections constitute a key indicator of retail activity and the overall economy as well as a major source of income for local governments.å

Romero and Thomas said the latest gains reflect increased sales across a range of categories, including home improvement products, automobiles and restaurant meals.

The city reported collecting a total of almost $3.6 million in sales and use taxes in March. That’s an increase of nearly $182,000 and 5.3 percent over the report for the same month last year. Sales tax collections rose 2.7 percent, while the more volatile use tax collections jumped 57 percent in part because of increased construction activity, Romero said.

The county reported collecting a total of almost $2.6 million in sales and use taxes in March. That’s an increase of nearly $44,000 and 2 percent over the same month last year. Sales tax collections increased 2.4 percent, while use tax collections dropped 1.2 percent.

Because tax reports lag a month behind, March reports reflect February sales.

Romero said mild weather and lower gasoline prices that left consumers with more spending money likely contributed to increased sales and, in turn, increased sales tax collections.

Thomas said warmer weather probably prompted an earlier start to home improvement and landscaping work and increased sales for that category. Meanwhile, though, automobile and restaurant sales climbed to their highest levels for the month in six years, she said.

March gains added to year-over-year increases in sales and use tax collections reported for the first quarter.

The city reported collecting a total of nearly $12.4 million during the first quarter. That’s an increase of almost $490,000 and 4.1 percent over the first quarter of 2014. Sales tax collections were up 3 percent, while use tax collections rose 16.5 percent.

The city budgeted for a 3 percent increase in sales tax collections, and Romero said she expects actual collections to meet or exceed that gain. Any additional revenue will increase the fund balance or be available for capital projects or other uses, she said.

The county reported collecting a total of more than $7.7 million during the first quarter. That’s an increase of almost $568,000 and 7.9 percent over the first quarter of 2014. Sales tax collections increased 7.6 percent, while use tax collections rose 11.2 percent.

The county has budgeted for a 2 percent gain in sales tax collections for 2015.