Sales tax collections on the rise

Phil Castle
Phil Castle

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Sales tax collections in Mesa County have increased on a year-over-year basis for a second consecutive month, an encouraging development for local retailers and government coffers.

Mesa County reported collecting a total of nearly $2.27 million in sales taxes for its capital improvement and general funds in November.

That’s an increase of almost 5.9 percent over the same month last year, the largest gain in 2013.

The latest increase follows a 5 percent gain reported in October. If sales tax collections increase at least 5 percent in December,  total collections for 2013 will match those in 2012.

The City of Grand Junction reported collecting $3.7 million in sales taxes in November, a 2 percent increase over the same month last year.

However, a 52 percent drop in use tax collections resulted in a 2.6 percent decline in overall revenues from sales and use taxes.

Because tax reports lag a month behind collections, November reports reflect October sales.

Eleanor Thomas, budget manager for Mesa County, said tax collections held steady for retailers, but were up for every other category, including automobiles, home improvements and natural resources. The increases were the largest for the construction, manufacturing and wholesale categories.

Sales tax collections for the county so far in 2013 total nearly $24.7 million for the capital improvement and general funds, less than a half point off the pace for the same period in 2012.

While gains in tax collections are encouraging, Thomas said the 2014 budget adopted by commissioners projects flat sales tax revenues for next year.

For the city, sales tax collections so far in 2013 total more than $42.2 million, just eight-tenths of a percent below collections for the same span in 2012. However, use tax collections year to date total about $1.9 million, more than 34 percent less than last year. That brings total revenues from sales and use taxes to about $44.1 million, about 3 percent less than 2012.

Elizabeth Tice-Janda, revenue supervisor for the City of Grand Junction, said the decline in use tax revenues reflects slowing in natural gas development in the region and isn’t likely to soon change.

“I think that’s probably the new normal.”

Gains in sales tax collections offer some encouragement, Tice-Janda said, that retail sales are increasing and consumers have gained some confidence. Tax reports for December and especially January will offer more information about whether or not the trend will continue as well as the holiday shopping season. Those figures could be affected in part by the extent of online holidays sales for which the city collects no sales taxes, she added.

Still, the 2014 budget adopted by the Grand Junction City Council reflects no anticipated increase in revenues, Tice-Janda said.