A brighter picture: County’s 2001 sales tax revenues higher than anticipated | SummitDaily.com

A brighter picture: County’s 2001 sales tax revenues higher than anticipated

Jane Reuter

SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County’s 2001 economic picture isn’t as bad as it first appeared, county officials said this week.

“Very preliminarily, it looks as though things are starting to go up again,” said County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom.

First-quarter building activity is up, and sales tax revenues for 2001 were up 6.1 percent over 2000, an increase the county hadn’t anticipated.

The good news on sales tax, said county finance director Linda Gregory, is in part because the state erred in figuring Summit County’s portion of sales tax. The state collects the county’s revenue, then gives the 2 percent sales tax funds back to the county at a later date.

“Based on what we initially got from the state, we thought December sales tax was lower than it really turned out to be,” Gregory said. “It wasn’t until March that we even knew the state had not entered all of our December data.”

The 6.1 percent sales tax increase this year compares to a 10.5 percent increase in those funds from 1999 to 2000. So while the year-to-year increase isn’t as good, it’s still a gain.

“I don’t think anybody would scoff at a 6.1 percent increase in sales tax,” Gregory said. “I think it’s a fairly respectable increase.”

Lindstrom agreed.

“We have not recovered, but indicators are things are a lot better than we thought they were,” he said. “I would have said if we can stay 1 to 2 percent up, we’re doing really well – as long as it’s not a negative; 6.1 percent up is really excellent.”

Last week, county building inspector Larry Renfroe said building permits in the county were up 15 percent during the first quarter of 2002. Those permits are a major indicator of the county’s economic health. That news, combined with Gregory’s findings, is encouraging.

“There’s more optimism than as recently as 10 to 11 weeks ago,” Renfroe said.

But the 2001 numbers don’t say much about this year’s ski season, Gregory pointed out.

“It only reflects the very beginning of the ski season, so it’s not really a good indicator of what happened after Sept. 11 as far as revenues go,” she said.

Gregory expects to receive January and February sales tax figures from the state sometime in May.

Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at jreuter@summitdaily.com

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