County sales tax revenues climb
August 17, 2004
SUMMIT COUNTY – As county government departments write budget requests for 2005, finance director Linda Gregory is keeping a close eye on sales tax revenues.Since the beginning of the year, the county experienced a steady recovery from the national economic downturn – year-to-date revenues are up 5.7 percent over last year – but Gregory said Tuesday it is not enough to meet all the department requests coming in.”We’re still trying to recover from significant drops (in sales tax revenues) in 2001 and 2002,” Gregory said.Enthused by small increases in sales tax revenues, the Summit Board of County Commissioners this spring sent word to the government’s approximately 30 departments that a 5 percent increase in spending would be considered. Gregory, who is working with individual departments to write budget requests, said some departments are asking for more than 5 percent, while others are not requesting an increase in spending. As is usually the case, there probably will not be enough funds to meet all the requests. Local governments saw declines in sales tax revenues beginning in 2001, when several events affected the local economy; 9/11, war, the resulting decrease in tourism, a decline in the national economy and low snow years caused fiscal belt-tightening in every sector.In 2002, the county made major mid-year budget cuts, lost 12 positions, scaled back employee benefits and limited pay increases. Since then, the county continued its conservative spending plan but may approve increases for 2005.The board will get its first peek at the 2005 budget – expected to total roughly $60 million – in mid-October and will aim to balance and pass it by December. The county’s 2 percent sales tax collections comprise 22 percent of the budget. The highest expense is personnel costs.So far, the Sheriff’s Office is requesting eight additional employees plus significant increases in capital expenditures. The buildings and grounds department also requested an additional staff member.Revenues from the three-quarter penny transit tax generated by the Summit Stage are a good indication of countywide spending. Those collections also are up, by 4.5 percent over the first half of 2003.The next significant reporting cycle will come in mid-September, when reports for July sales tax collections will provide major economic indicators of the summer tourist season.Kim Marquis can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.