Summit County’s expanding sales tax revenues carry over into 2019 |

Summit County’s expanding sales tax revenues carry over into 2019

One of the sculptures is shown during the International Snow Sculpture Championships on Jan. 25 at the RIverwalk Center in Breckenridge. The sculptures were one January event that brought tourists into town, as the month produced swelling sales tax revenues in Breckenridge and Frisco compared to January 2018.
Hugh Carey /

Whether it’s at the grocery stores, inside restaurants and cafés, or with local lodging accommodations, cash registers are ringing up across Summit County.

Even though the snow is starting to melt away, this winter’s sales tax receipts are only beginning to pile up. January is the most recent month for which the towns’ regular reports are available in Summit County, and collectively they show that the record-setting sales tax revenues from 2018 have largely carried over into the beginning of this year.

“Yeah, we’ve had a great winter,” said Bonnie Lehman, manager at the Arapahoe Café & Pub in Dillon.

Hearing about expanding sales volumes across the county, Lehman didn’t sound too surprised when she said she thinks this winter’s record-setting snowfall, along with the return of the Dillon Ice Castles, might have something to do with all the added traffic the café and other local businesses have been seeing this year.

In fact, January brought a whopping 9.79% spike in Frisco’s estimated sale tax revenue with 13 of the town’s 17 taxable categories showing growth over the same month last year.

Seeing the potential for an economic downturn, Frisco’s financial experts are being guardedly optimistic with their long-term forecasts. However, they remain “bullish” on the short-term economic outlook and fully expect Frisco’s sales taxes to meet or exceed budgeted revenues by the year’s end.

Describing what’s driving the growth, Frisco revenue specialist Chad Most said a strong real estate and redevelopment market has fueled the town’s home improvement sector, which saw sales climb over 106% in January compared to the same month last year.

Meanwhile, Most added that Frisco’s lodging properties, retail outlets, grocery stores and restaurants have all benefited from heavy snowfall this winter. It’s more a result of the tourists seeking fresh powder than snow, but after last year’s lackluster winter, most taxable categories have been doing quite well this season.

In Frisco, the town’s most impactful sectors — restaurants, lodging, grocery and general retail — were all up by 6% or more over January 2018, but that growth was not unique to Frisco.

In Breckenridge, January’s sales tax growth was less dramatic, but the month still produced swelling sales for the Summit County seat, which finished January 3.36% ahead of January 2018.

Breckenridge’s director of finance, Brain Waldes, explained that the town’s rapid growth rate might be starting to wane compared to the last few years, but the expanding sales tax revenue continues to show up on the town’s monthly reports, nonetheless.

“We are still experiencing some of the revenue growth we have been the last few years — maybe not as robust when you look at the net taxable sales report — but it’s still a really strong report,” he said of January’s numbers.

The largest percentage decline in any individual category for Breckenridge came in grocery and liquor sales. Waldes called the 17.88% drop an “outlier” as he attributed it to exceptionally strong sales for the category in January 2018. Compared to January 2016 and January 2017, Waldes said the sector is still showing a rising sale volume.

But January’s growth wasn’t universal across the county. Like Breckenridge’s grocery stores, Dillon’s overall sales tax collections were somewhat hampered by incredibly robust figures from January 2018, in which the town experienced a wild 31.11% growth rate over January 2017. As a result, this January’s taxable sales in Dillon actually fell 2.05% compared to last year.

Much of Dillon’s growth throughout last year was attributed to the ice castles. While Dillon didn’t see expanding sales this January, the ice castles returned this year and Dillon held mostly level in January after its sales tax receipts jumped by almost one-third in January 2018. At the same time, the town’s lodging tax finished the month 22.82% ahead of where it was in January 2018.

Silverthorne’s sales tax report for January was not available. Revenue Administrator Kathy Marshall said that some of the figures for the town’s estimated sales tax revenues are still coming in, and as a result, Silverthorne staff will issue a combined report for January and February.

Marshall estimated that January could come out a little bit ahead of January 2018, but she won’t know that for sure, or by how much, until the reports are complete.

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