BRECKENRIDGE - After a year of dismal sales tax returns in 2012, things are finally looking up for hard-up Summit County government coffers in the first two months of 2013.
Sales tax revenue increased roughly 16 percent in January over the same month's collections last year and was up approximately 10 percent in February as well, according to county finance officials.
"That's a great start to the year," county finance director Marty Ferris said at a recent work session for the Summit Board of County Commissioners. "Last time we had a February like this was 2007 and 2008."
The town governments in Summit County, on the backs of a recovering commercial sector, saw gains in sales tax revenue last year, but the county government continued to struggle, looking primarily to revenue from businesses surrounding Copper Mountain and Keystone Resort to support sales tax revenue in a bad snow year.
"It has been so many months since we've had any good news," county manager Gary Martinez said at the work session Tuesday.
The county generally collects about 45 percent of its $4.5 million in annual sales tax revenue for the year in January, February and March alone.
The county is now up 12 percent year-to-date from last year.
And the good news didn't end with sales taxes.
New information from the valuation period that ended in June of last year shows that property values didn't decline as much as initially expected. County officials were expecting a 6 percent drop in property taxes for the collection period beginning in 2014, but new data shows the decline will be less than 3 percent.
"We thought it was going to be worse, but it's not going to be so bad after all," Summit County Assessor Beverly Breakstone said. "We're back on track with people building homes ... that means employment."
Officials were bracing for a bigger drop in property tax revenue - the county governments' primary source of income - next year while still reeling from a 17 percent cut that began in 2012, reflecting the impacts of the recession on the housing market.
But Breakstone says that market seems to be recovering. The town of Frisco had no decline at all in property values between the summer of 2010 and the summer of 2012.
"Originally, when we started collecting the data in July of 2010, we were a little concerned," Breakstone stated in an email. "But values have increased slowly but continuously. ... The taxing entities should be pleased that their budgets will not be hugely impacted. Hopefully taxpayers feel good about this too."
Appeals could still cause some fluctuation in the valuations.