Rising tax collections bode well for Grand Valley recovery

At least one measure of economic performance indicates recovery could be gaining traction in Mesa County.

According to its November report, sales and use tax collections for Mesa County were up 7.59 percent over the same report last year.

That’s the largest year-over-year proportional gain since December 2007, when collections were up nearly 39 percent over December 2006.

Tax collection reports lag a month behind, meaning the November report reflects October sales. Reports covering the holiday season will be released in the first quarter of 2011.

Mesa County reported total sales and use tax collections of $2.9 million in its November report, the fourth consecutive month of year-to-year increases over the same months in 2009. The county report includes dollars it shares with the municipalities of Grand Junction, Fruita and Palisade.

Meanwhile, the City of Grand Junction reported its fifth straight month of year-over-year increases. The city reported $3.97 million in sales and use tax collections in its November report. That’s a 12.15 percent increase over the report for November of last year. The city figures include funds from Mesa County collections.

Despite the recent increases, tax collections year to date still lag behind last year.

For Mesa County, collections for January through November reports total nearly $30.58 million, 7.49 percent below the same period last year.

The county is on track to collect a little more than $31 million in sales taxes for 2010, the lowest level since it collected $30.19 million in 2004. In 2005, collections totaled $33.66 million as a natural gas boom took hold in Western Colorado and the regional and national economies were in much better shape than they are in the waning days of 2010.

Meanwhile, the city reported collecting $42.05 million through the first 11 months of  2010, 3.67 percent below the total for the same period last year.

Both the county and city governments have trimmed spending during a softer economy over the past 22 months. The city instituted a 3 percent employee pay cut in 2010, while the county froze employee wages. Both governments also reduced  staffing.

The Mesa County commissioners recently adopted a $129.21 million budget for 2011, a figure that’s about 9 percent lower than the budget adopted for 2010. The City of Grand Junction budget for next year is $147.2 million, higher than the budget adopted for 2010.

The 2010 budget was reduced by 1.2 percent during the year as reductions were instituted by city administrators.