Summit County sales tax growth slows at the beginning of 2017 | SummitDaily.com

Summit County sales tax growth slows at the beginning of 2017

Summit County's sales tax revenue got off to a slow start in 2017, when towns saw slower growth rates than previous months. Many areas in the county have been seeing booming growth, but Summit's financial experts argued that the upward trend could not continue permanently.

"With 13 percent growth in 2015, another 10 percent growth in 2016, maintaining any growth up toward that double digit percentage is certainly going to be tough," said Chad Most, the revenue specialist in Frisco. "That said, 5 percent growth on top of the 10 percent growth, on top of the 13 percent growth is still quite remarkable."

The town of Frisco pulled ahead of January in 2016 by 5 percent with $810,501 in revenue. Silverthorne also came out ahead with $818,538 in sales tax revenue. The town saw a boost of more than $51,000 compared to the same time last year.

Dillon was behind January 2016 by nearly 3 percent, bringing in $543,619. Carri McDonnell, the finance director for the town, said that the town is still struggling to make up for retail revenue after losing Sports Authority. Retail sales were down by 10.5 percent.

In Breckenridge, the town's net taxable sales were behind by nearly 2 percent, or $1.2 million.

The town's director of finance, Brian Waldes, said that the decrease was likely due to the construction and utility categories, which were both behind 2016 by 32.9 percent and 73.62 percent respectively. Utilities in the county have been going down, but Waldes added that a return had not been filed, leading to the large dip. For the construction category, there was an audit in 2016 and large projects, giving the town a jump both last year and in 2015.

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"We had two really large Januarys in '15 and '16," Waldes said. "It was not a particularly slow month either at $1.9 million. That's still a pretty good construction month especially in the middle of winter."

Retail, however, pulled ahead in the town, with nearly an 11 percent increase from January of 2016. Breck was the only town in Summit to see high amounts of growth in that category. Dillon continues to see dips in retail revenue, and Frisco skated ahead in retail revenue by only $298. Silverthorne saw a nearly 9 percent decrease from the Outlets At Silverthorne, and was behind an additional 6.4 percent in consumer retail. While Kathy Marshall, a revenue administrator for the town, said that the decrease in the outlets had been expected due to PacSun and Wilson's Leather both closing, consumer retail is not a category that typically falls short.

"It's rare for consumer retail to be down," she said. "I was a little bit surprised by that."

Lodging went up and down throughout Summit County. In Breckenridge, net taxable sales from short-term lodging saw a decrease of more than $619,000. In December, the same category saw a boost of more than 24 percent. Waldes said that this may have been due to the new lodging tax added by the county in January of 2017. People began booking in December to avoid the added tax of 0.6 percent, which was approved by voters to fund workforce housing in Summit.

"We've heard some anecdotal evidence that people were pre-paying because, per the rules, if you paid in 2016 you wouldn't have to pay that extra 0.6 percent," Waldes said. "We'll keep an eye on it over the next couple months."

Frisco saw a less drastic dip in revenue from vacation rentals, which fell behind by nearly $3,000. Hotels and inns, on the other hand, saw an increase of 2.6 percent. Most said that this may be because of the rise in room rates in the hotel industry, and not due to a hike in occupancy rates.

In Silverthorne, lodging was up by $13,334. Marshall said that occupancy in town the year before was lower, leading to the bump this year. She added that it will likely even out in the future. The town of Dillon also saw an increase in lodging revenue, which came in 15.8 percent ahead of the same time last year.

"That's a pretty good increase for January," McDonnell said. "We did feel like January was very busy for tourism."

Most said that while revenue is still increasing above what the towns had anticipated, that growth is not sustainable forever.

"This economy keeps humming along, especially in mountain resort communities," Most said. "It is a good time for us to be planning ahead, planning for any downside risks in the future."

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