Revenues force modest budget
BRECKENRIDGE – Sales tax revenues in Breckenridge were down again in June and July, forcing town finance officials to develop a conservative budget for 2003.
“We’re proposing pretty much a status quo budget,” said town manager Tim Gagen. “On the revenue side, we’re projecting flat or slightly declining revenue compared to this year in most revenue streams. On the other hand, we’re paying off substantial debt that will free up money for the general function of the budget.”
About $1 million will be freed up for other uses after the town makes the last payment on debt incurred to build the original 18 holes of the Breckenridge Golf Club.
The town council will discuss the 2003 budget at a meeting Oct. 15.
Gagen said town officials are not optimistic sales tax revenues – including those from retail, restaurant, grocery, liquor and building supplies – will improve next year. Town officials based next year’s budget on this year’s actual revenue streams – most of which are tracking less than anticipated, Gagen said.
According to a report submitted to town council members Tuesday, overall sales tax collections totalled $745,220 in July, down from last July’s collection of $769,883. The town had budgeted to collect $767,226 in July.
Accommodations tax revenues are up 2.6 percent over last July and 18 percent more than budgeted. Town officials expect that amount to increase again next year, Gagen said.
“That’s an interesting thing,” Gagen said. “We see a lot of people visiting – they’re staying. But when it comes to buying retail-type products, that’s not occurring as strongly. It’s all about the economy. Money isn’t being spent as generously as it has in past years.”
Property tax revenue is expected to be up slightly, primarily because of increases in assessed valuations. And Real Estate Transfer Tax revenue – a 1 percent tax assessed on real estate sales – is hoped to be stronger next year, as well, Gagen said.
Revenue related to building and development is expected to be flat or slightly down, Gagen said, although a few projects are in the pipeline that will “keep that sector from going completely into the dumper,” he said.
Another, smaller revenue stream town officials believe might increase slightly is fines and court costs, primarily because the police department is expected to be fully staffed next year.
Gagen said the town plans to hire no new employees and create no new positions next year. It will, however, allocate money toward the Gold Run Nordic Center next year.
Officials expect revenues to remain flat.
“Optimistically, we’re going to continue the same trend we’re seeing,” Gagen said. “The general sales tax being down continues a trend we’ve seen since April. It’s a little disappointing. We were hoping to see a little up-perk, maybe reversing a little bit of the trend, but it didn’t occur. They’re here, but they’re not spending as much, and sales tax revenue has declined because of it.”
In June, year-to-date sales tax revenues were down 6 percent overall when compared to June 2001. July year-to-date sales tax revenues are down 5.7 percent, although that number could change as revenue from late filers is tabulated.
July’s figures are the latest to be tabulated because it takes the state about six weeks to get the data back to municipalities. July is generally the strongest summer month for overall sales tax revenue, finance director Judy Ferris said.
“We would have liked July to be stronger; it’s a pretty important month here,” she said. “We still have August and September.”
According to Gagen, anecdotal evidence indicates business started to fall off in July, except on weekends, when the town played host to large events.
“Oktoberfest was a great event,” he said. “But weekends don’t seem to be enough to make up for mid-week anymore. In past years, we’ve had good growth, and it’s stayed steady in August and September.”
Breckenridge isn’t the only municipality affected by a soft economy.
“In general, everyone in the whole county is feeling the same impact,” Gagen said. “Everyone is more conservative in their projections. We’re hoping the economy will turn around, but if it’s not the economy, there’s nothing we can control except trying to get people here.”
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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