Phil Castle, The Business Times
With an increase in March, sales tax collections in Grand Junction and Mesa County so far this year have kept pace with last year.
The City of Grand Junction reported a 2 percent increase in sales and use tax collections for March over the same month last year. Mesa County reported a 3.1 percent increase in sales tax collections.
With those gains, tax collections for the city and county for reports covering the first quarter of 2014 came in slightly ahead of the first quarter of 2013.
As a measure of local retail sales as well as an important source of revenue, tax collections offer some encouragement to local government officials of improving economic conditions.
“We’re certainly hopeful,” said Frank Whidden, deputy administrator for support at Mesa County.
The city has budgeted for no increase in tax collections this year. But Jodi Romero, financial operations director, remains optimistic. “I’m hoping that we actually come in above the budget.”
The city reported collecting a total of $3.41 million in sales and use taxes in March, an increase of nearly $68,000 and 2 percent over the same month last year.
For reports covering the first quarter of 2014, the city collected a total of more than $11.9 million in sales and use taxes, an increase of almost $94,000 and eight-tenths of a percent over the first quarter of 2013.
Since tax reports lag a month behind, the March report reflects February sales. Reports for January through March reflect sales in December through February.
Romero said monthly fluctuations make it more difficult to project sales tax collections, but the trend has been upward with year-over-year increases in five out of the last six months.
The trend has been just the opposite for use tax collections, however.
Year-over-year use tax collections were down 14.4 percent in March and 18.6 percent for the first quarter. Romero said the decline reflects less activity in energy exploration and production in the region.
Mesa County reported collecting a total of early $1.98 million in sales taxes for its capital improvement and general funds in March, an increase of almost $60,000 and 3.1 percent over the same month last year.
For reports covering the first quarter of 2014, the county collected a total of more than $6.44 million in sales taxes for its capital improvement and general funds. That’s an increase of nearly $47,000 and about seven-tenths of a percent over the first quarter of 2013.
Like the city, Mesa County has budgeted for no gains in sales tax collections in 2014.
Whidden said many variables affect tax collections in the county, but he believes conditions are improving. “I do think things are generally getting a little better.”
From a long-term perspective, though, Whidden said work must continue to further diversify the local economy and develop the work force. The Mesa County commissioners support that work, along with efforts to create a business-friendly environment, he said.
Whidden said he’s been especially impressed by the initiative of the Western Colorado Manufacturing Alliance to promote that sector through networking, training and outreach. The alliance recently hosted its first ever manufacturing summit in Grand Junction.