Sales tax revenues on par<with 1995 |

Sales tax revenues on par<with 1995

Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE<Breckenridge town leaders are baffled as to why skier visits appear to be up this season, but sales tax revenue is flat.According to Finance Director Judy Ferris, sales tax figures in January are down almost 15 percent compared to the same time last year, and lodging and restaurant and bar tax revenues are down too.But sales tax revenue garnered from grocery sales were up 12.4 percent in January, Ferris said. And Real Estate Transfer Taxes (RETT), a 1 percent fee collected upon the sale of real estate in town, was down 5 percent in January but rebounded<up 123 percent in February and 21 percent in March.Those figures have council members wondering what1s going on.3Adjust these numbers for inflation, and it gets really scary, said council member Dave Hinton. 3It was 1995 when we had a January this bad. It1s getting to the point where numbers are going down over (numbers) a year ago that were down. Lodging1s been down 13 months in a row.One theory is that people are buying weekend homes and stocking them with food from grocery stores rather than going out to eat.Another idea is that the demographics of a Breckenridge skier has changed to include fewer destination vacationers and more from the Front Range. It could be that Front Range residents<who nationwide have the second-highest percentage of retail space per person<aren1t buying things in Breckenridge because they can get them at home.Retailers often have said they feel Front Range skiers don1t spend as much money in town and are more likely to pack a lunch than spend money in restaurants.It could be that, in light of the national economy, people are less inclined to spend money in general.3That1s controlled more by cyclical bigger things that we can1t control, said Town Manager Tim Gagen. 3It1s going to be interesting to see other trends throughout the rest of the county. If everyone1s seeing a downturn, then it1s likely to be more a matter of overall spending and less about Breckenridge.It also could be that the town1s efforts to attract people from the mountain and parking lots isn1t working as well as hoped. The town, ski resort and Breckenridge Resort Chamber have changed bus schedules and routes, installed a bridge over the Blue River linking Sawmill and East Sawmill parking lots, televised traffic on the interstate to let people know what traffic looks like and put up signs to encourage people to come to town.Ridership on town buses and trolleys is up more than 30 percent this year, and numerous people<numbers are not available<are seen using the bridge every day to get downtown.3It1s hard to say what1s going on, said Gagen said. 3If we hadn1t have done those efforts, where would we be now? We seem to be doing OK compared to other resorts. It1s too early to jump to too many conclusions.Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or

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