Sales tax data signals optimism for Summit County’s local economies — with revenues continuing to exceed pre-pandemic levels

October and November year-over-year numbers point to growth, even as some towns’ revenue slowed down towards the end of last year

People walk down Main Street on Presidents Day on Feb. 21, 2022 in Breckenridge. The town remains the economic powerhouse in Summit County, with sales tax revenue from the past year exceeding even pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
Tripp Fay/For the Summit Daily News

Sales tax revenue near the end of 2022 continued to show an upward trend for local economies across Summit County, signaling communities’ resilience amid volatile economic forces. 

According to October and November 2022 figures — which is the most recent publicly available data — revenue has exceeded pre-pandemic levels from 2019, though some communities saw a slight dip in recent months compared with the rest of 2022. 

The town of Breckenridge continues to be the economic powerhouse of the county, with sales tax revenue dwarfing that of other towns and the county itself. 

Between January and October of last year, Breckenridge brought in $18,723,180 in sales tax revenue, representing a steady increase in revenue dating back to 2019, when it reported $13,348,452 for those same months.

“We saw strong growth at the beginning of the year,” said Pam Ness, revenue manager for the town of Breckenridge. “We still ended the year strong … but now we’re kind of trending flat.”

Ness said high gas prices may have led to somewhat of a summer slump in revenue, but she called 2022 “still a phenomenal year.” The year-over-year increase in revenue will go towards a slew of vital priorities, Ness said, from supporting child care programs to infrastructure projects. 

“The stronger our sales tax number is, the stronger the spending from the town is going to be higher,” Ness said. 

The town of Silverthorne’s most recent report, which is also from January to October of last year, shows the town generated $14,250,979 in sales tax revenue. That’s a more than $4 million increase for those same months year-over-year since 2019.

“I think the town’s economy just continues to improve,” said Laura Kennedy, the town’s director of finance and administrative services. 

In particular, Kennedy highlighted the success of two major recent businesses, Bluebird Market and Hotel Indigo, which both opened within the last year. She said despite the fallout of COVID-19 and inflation, Silverthorne — like the rest of the county — has done well to continue to attract visitors due to its resort-town status. During the pandemic, residents of more urban areas sought relief in the open space of mountain towns and were able to help boost revenue for places like Silverthorne, Kennedy said. 

The money will be a boon to the town which — like most municipalities — relies heavily on sales tax for its general fund, which pays for major town initiatives. Kennedy said the heightened revenue will ensure funding for high-priority projects such as the town’s new child care center, set to open this fall, as well as staffing for town departments. 

“We can’t have police responding to 911 calls if we don’t have police officers,” Kennedy said, adding that funds will also mean “a lot of increase in operations” for infrastructure such as water lines, sewer lines, stormwater management.

This graphic shows how much each town plus Summit County government collected in sales tax from January through October for the years 2022, 2021, 2020 and 2019. All five entities are still compiling November and December data for 2022, though some have recently released November numbers.
Jenna deJong/Summit Daily News

Year to date reports for the town of Frisco up to October show the town collected $10,979,469. Following the trends of other municipalities, Frisco has continued to grow its revenue from 2019 — when the town reported $8,306,691 in revenue between January and October.

According to Finance Director Leslie Edwards, the town has seen a major increase in spending at restaurants, with a near 28% increase in sales tax revenue for the industry this past October compared to October 2021.

“Despite all the talks about recession and inflation and trying to get people to stop spending, we’re seeing discretionary spending still high and strong,” Edwards said.

The town also recently released November data that shows a slight decrease compared to past months, though Edwards said she expects revenue to pick back up once numbers are reported for December — which tends to be one of the busiest months for spending.

The town of Dillon saw January to October 2022 revenue of $8,321,707 — up from $6,187,076 for those same months in 2019. Year-to-date revenue is about 10% more than 2021, according to Finance Director Carri McDonell, despite a slight dip in numbers for this fall.

Ahead of other municipalities, the town also recently released its November numbers, which showed a decrease that month compared to November 2021.

“I think, overall, we’re somewhat stabilized,” McDonell said. “You may be seeing a drop in retail due to the cost of goods and inflation. However, restaurants are way up.”

McDonell said the town does not usually budget for an increase in sales tax revenue, so the 10% bump from this past year will mean additional money coming into the town. Much of that will go to capital projects, McDonell said, such as renovating Dillon Town Park as well as paying off debt for improvements being made to Dillon Amphitheater. 

Summit County’s government reported revenue of $8,600,003 for January to October 2022, continuing an upward recovery from 2020 — when the county was the only local government entity to see a decrease in its sales tax revenue from 2019. The county collects sales tax in the county’s unincorporated areas, which are outside of town limits. 

According to Finance Director David Reynolds, the county saw massive increases of between 30% to 40% between January and March 2022 compared with those same months for 2021.

“Things have tapered off since the first quarter of the year — but still showing solid growth over the previous year,” Reynolds said, adding that a wetter spring to summer season coupled with high gas prices and other inflationary concerns may have quelled some travel.

Still, he said the county “continues to be a really healthy economy and resilient to COVID and other issues.”

He expects the county to exceed sales tax revenue of $10 million, possibly nearing $11 million, once it reports its December numbers in the coming weeks.

As the costs of labor, goods and services remain high, Reynolds said strong sales tax revenue will help the county “keep up with inflationary pressures.”

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