Phil Castle, The Business Times:
Monthly sales tax collections dropped more than 7 percent in Mesa County for November, ending a 14-month string of year-over-year increases.
Sales and use tax collections also fell for the City of Grand Junction, although the decline was smaller. Still, year-to-date tax collections in the county and city remain well ahead of last year, an indication of increased retail activity overall.
Financial directors for the county and city said the November tax reports were surprising and could constitute an anomaly rather than the beginning of a trend. For 2012, the county has budgeted a 4 percent increase in sales tax collections, while the city expects collections to hold steady.
Mesa County reported collecting a total of almost $2 million in sales taxes for its capital improvement and general funds in November.
Another $741,000 in taxes was distributed to cities and towns in the county, including Grand Junction. Those numbers are down nearly 7.2 percent from the November report for last year, the first year-over-year decline since August 2010.
The City of Grand Junction reported collecting a total of more than $3.9 million in sales and use taxes during November, a number that includes almost $500,000 in county tax receipts.
Total sales and use tax revenues reported in November were down 1.3 percent from the same month last year. Since tax reports lag a month behind, November reports reflect October sales.
Marcia Arnhold, finance director for Mesa County, couldn’t attribute the decline in the November report to a particular factor, but noted tax collections for the same month last year were comparatively strong.
With slower growth coming out of a recession, she said it’s unrealistic to expect the kind of double-digit increases in tax collections that were a hallmark of 2005, 2006 and 2007.
It’s too early to tell whether or not the November report constitutes the start of a downward trend, Arnhold said. “You can never predict a trend on one month.”
Jodi Romero, financial operations manager for the city, also said it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of what was only about a $51,000 difference in sales and use tax collections for the city between November of 2011 and 2010.
In September, sales tax collections were down about $81,000, but an increase in use tax collections brought the total for the month up 5.4 percent over the same mont last year.
Arnhold and Romero said they pay less attention to monthly variations than year-to-date totals.
For reports covering the first 11 months of 2011, Mesa County collected a total of more than $23.7 million for its capital improvement and general funds. Almost $9 million in additional taxes were distributed to cities and towns in the county. Those numbers all are up 7 percent from the same span last year.
Arnhold said a 4 percent increase in sales tax collections has been budgeted for 2012 with total projected revenues of nearly $26.4 million for the capital improvement and general funds.
The City of Grand Junction collected a total of more than $44.7 million for reports covering the first 11 months of 2011, an increase of 7.5 percent over the same span last year.
Romero said she expects sales tax collections to increase slightly in 2012, but the city has budgeted more conservatively for no change from 2011.