Sales and use tax collections take a November dip

Phil Castle
Phil Castle

Phil Castle, The Business Times

It’s too early to tell if a year-over-year decline in sales and use tax collections in November constitutes a one-month anomaly or the beginning of a trend.

“I’m hoping it was just a blip and not a trend,” said Eleanor Thomas, budget manager for Mesa County.

Jodi Romero, financial operations director for the City of Grand Junction, also said she’d prefer that the decrease turns out to be a deviation from what’s been a steady increase in collections over the past five years. “I hope it is.”

The county reported a 3.8 percent decrease in collections, while the city reported a 2.4 percent drop. November collections reflect October sales.

Year-to-date tax collections for the city and county still remain well ahead of 2014, though. T he upward trend is forecast to continue in 2016.

Thomas attributed the November decrease in part to lower sales in the automobile and oil and natural gas sectors.

Romero confirmed city tax collections were down for the energy sector as well as for vehicles that were sold outside of Grand Junction to owners within the city limits.

There was no decrease, though, in restaurant, grocery store or so-called super store sales that would reflect a more general downturn in consumer spending, Romero said. 

Mesa County reported collecting a total of nearly $2.5 million in sales and use taxes in November, down nearly $98,000 from the same month last year. Sales taxes collections were down 3.1 percent, while use tax collections dropped 8.8 percent.

The combined November decrease was the first for the county since February 2014, Thomas said.

The city reported collecting a total of almost $4 million in sales and use taxes, a decline of more than $99,000 from the same month last year. Sales tax collections fell 3.4 percent, while use tax collections retreated 2.6 percent.

City sales tax collections declined nine-tenths of a percent in May and two-tenths of a percent in April, although combined sales and use tax collections still edged up for those months. That makes the latest decrease comparatively larger and a bit more worrisome, Romero said.

Even with the drop, year-to-date tax collections for the county and city remain well ahead of 2014.Through November 2015, the county reported collecting more than $29.5 million. That’s an increase of more than $1.3 million and 4.7 percent over the same span in 2014. Sales tax collections were up 4.6 percent, while use tax collections advanced 5.5 percent.

The city reported year-to-date collections of nearly $46.6 million. That’s an increase of almost $1.3 million and 2.8 percent over 2014. Sales taxes were up 2 percent and use taxes up 12.2 percent,

The upward trend in tax collections is expected to continue in 2016, Thomas and Romero said. The county has forecast a 2.5 percent increase over what’s projected will be collected this year. The city has budgeted a 2 percent increase.