Phil Castle, The Business Times:
Monthly sales tax collections in Mesa County have jumped more than 15 percent — a double-digit increase over last year that bodes well not only for government coffers, but also the local economy.
“I’m very happy about that,” said Marcia Arnhold, finance director for Mesa County.
Arnhold said the gain reflects increased retail sales and slowly improving business conditions. With year-over-year increases in all but one of the last 18 months, a long-term pattern has emerged, she added.
“I’m beginning to look at it as a trend.”
The City of Grand Junction also announced increased sales and use tax collections in its February report, although the gain wasn’t as proportionally large at 2.3 percent.
Since tax reports lag a month behind collections, February reports reflect sales activity in January.
Mesa County reported collecting a total of more than $2 million in sales taxes for its capital improvement and general funds, an increase of 15.5 percent over the report for February 2011. Another $765,000 was distributed to cities and towns in the county, including Grand Junction.
The county assesses a 2 percent sales tax with 1 percent allocated to a capital fund used to pay for the construction of roads, bridges, buildings and other large projects. Of the remaining 1 percent, 0.45 percent goes into the general fund for operational expenses. The other
0.55 percent goes to cities and towns in the county.
With a single exception, the increase in the February report was the first double-digit gain in monthly revenues for Mesa County since 2007.
Revenues increased almost 37 percent in the July 2011 report, but only because they were compared to a month a year earlier in which a large refund had occurred, Arnhold said.
Sales tax collections for the capital improvement and general funds for February and January 2012 totalled more than $4.6 million, an increase of more than 10.2 percent over the same span last year.
Arnhold initially forecast a 4 percent increase in sales tax collections for 2012 with total projected revenues of nearly $26.4 million for the capital improvement and general funds. But that forecast will be updated over the course of the year, she said.
The City of Grand Junction announced total collections of almost $3.8 million in sales and use tax revenues in its February report, an increase of 2.3 percent over the February report for 2011. That figure includes nearly $582,000 in sales tax revenues the city received from the county.
Sales and use tax collections in the February and January 2012 reports totalled nearly $8.9 million, up 3.1 percent from the same span last year.
The city assesses a 2.75 percent sales tax, with 0.75 percent allocated to capital construction.
While Grand Junction has experienced year-over-year growth in tax revenues for more than a year, the city continues to budget conservatively with no growth forecast for 2012.
Meanwhile, the latest monthly measure of hotel and motel stays in Grand Junction has increased.
According to the Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau report for February, lodging tax revenues totalled $61,436, a 9.5 percent increase over the report for February 2011. February reports reflect hotel and motel stays in January.
Lodging tax revenues for the February and January 2012 reports totalled $123,560, a 6.3 percent increase over the same span last year.
The VCB also reported in February a more than 20 percent increase in the number of brochures it mailed out and a 13.3 percent increase in unique visits to its Web site. Visits to the Grand Junction Visitor Center were up almost 17 percent.