Tax collections trend higher

Phil Castle
Phil Castle

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Increasing tax collections continue to reflect what local officials describe as improving economic conditions.

The City of Grand Junction reported a 5.1 percent increase in year-over-year sales and use tax collections in its November report. Mesa County reported a smaller gain at 1.4 percent.

Since tax reports lag a month behind, the November reports reflect October sales. The December and January reports will offer a measure of retail sales during the holiday shopping season.

For now, though, the upward trend in sales tax collections remains a promising one with year-over-year increases in 13 out of the past 14 months.

“I think it’s really an encouraging sign,” said Jodi Romero, financial operations director for the City of Grand Junction.

Frank Whidden, who’s scheduled to begin working as Mesa County Administrator on Jan. 1, agreed. “The indicators that I know of are certainly trending positive, and that’s good.”

The city reported collecting a total of nearly $4.1 million in sales and use taxes in November. That’s an increase of almost $200,000 and 5.1 percent over the same month last year. Sales tax collections alone increased 6.6 percent. Use tax collections, a far smaller and more volatile share of revenue for the city, fell more than 26 percent.

The latest numbers bring year-to-date sales and use tax collections for the city to $45.3 million. That’s an increase of nearly $1.2 million and 2.7 percent over the same span last year, although slightly below year-to-date collections at this point in 2012.

Romero said higher sales tax collections reflect in part increased sales of automobiles as well as meals and beverages in restaurants and bars.

Because the city doesn’t assess sales tax on food, sales tax collections reflect more discretionary spending and offer a more accurate gauge of retail sales and the economy, she said. “It’s an even better sign of a local economy.”

A 3 percent increase in sales tax collections is projected for 2015, Romero said.

Mesa County reported collecting a total of nearly $2.6 million in sales and use taxes in November. That’s an increase of nearly $37,000 and 1.4 percent over the same month last year. Sales tax collections edged up two-tenths of a percent, while use tax collections increased 11.9 percent.

The county has collected a total of more than $28.2 million in sales and use taxes so far in 2014. That’s an increase of almost $741,000 and 2.7 percent over the same span in 2013.

Whidden said most of the increased sales tax revenues collected this year along with what’s projected as a 2 percent gain in revenues next year will provide additional funding for road and infrastructure construction and other capital projects.