Breck retail revenue off 26 percent in April |

Breck retail revenue off 26 percent in April

by Jane Stebbins

Projects that could be delayed

Purchase of a historic locomotive



Materials purchases

BRECKENRIDGE – If Breckenridge sales tax revenues don’t stop their downward spiral, town officials might be forced to consider delaying even more non-essential purchases and capital improvement projects.

“Unfortunately, we can’t say our trend has reversed itself,” Town Manager Tim Gagen told town council members Tuesday afternoon. “We need to see a change in the next couple of months. We’re covering our gap with Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) revenues.”

The RETT fund is the only one that seems to have recovered from the impacts of the national economic downturn in the past six months. Sales tax revenue in other categories – short-term lodging, restaurants, retail, grocery and liquor stores – have been flat or down, with RETT and construction supplies helping hold up the bottom line.

RETT revenue, garnered in the form of a 1 percent tax on real estate transactions, was up 42 percent in April compared to April 2001, and up 52 percent for the year when compared to the first five months of last year.

“This just shows we need to be more aggressive than ever in getting the word out: Come to Summit,” said Councilmember J.B. Katz. “The coverage of the fires will be more devastating to us than 9/11. Sept. 11 was a nationwide thing; they said, “Get out, do stuff, don’t be afraid.’ This is Colorado.”

Town council members aren’t sure what is affecting retail sales in particular. The national economy, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, a low-snow year, wildfires throughout the West and the dot-com implosion have all been blamed for decreased revenue.

Other elements also might apply, including the kinds of merchandise available in town and competition from Front Range malls and other tourism industries.

“April 5, we just fell off the map,” said Roger McCarthy, chief operations officer for the Breckenridge Ski Resort, when asked how skier numbers compared to retail sales revenue. “Easter was earlier, we had a late snow year, and it didn’t snow at all in April. We hit April 5 and it was over.”

The town council reexamined its budget late last year and moved then to delay a variety of projects, including road resurfacing, constructing a new entrance at the public works offices on Airport Road, work on Kingdom Park and the Blue River reclamation master plan north of County Road 3, placing utilities underground, some trails work, public art, historic restoration and a few vehicle purchases.

There are no plans to change the budget – yet.

“It’s still early,” Gagen said. “You don’t want to base your numbers on the April and May time frames.”

In the meantime, town officials are hanging tight to the publics’ money.

“On the capital side, there are very few projects that we’ve approved,” Gagen said. “So we’re holding onto that money, and we’ll continue to hold it to cover any shortfall.”

The town might reconsider its plan to submit a bid for a historic locomotive for the Rotary Snowplow Park on Boreas Pass Road. The bid is due in 30 days, and officials believed it would cost about $150,000 to obtain and restore the equipment.

“We don’t want to miss this opportunity,” Gagen said. “There is money, but it’s kind of safety valve if things continue to deteriorate.”

Gagen said he’s counting on June and July.

“Those will be the biggies,” he said. “The summers have really helped us in the last couple of years. I’m pretty optimistic. It’s been hot in Denver, which helps, and we have a great season of events planned. I think we’ll have as good a summer as we did last year – and we grew last year. If we can match that, we’ll be in pretty good shape.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or

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