Sales taxes: Summit County closes summer on high note
Across Summit County, sales tax collections for August were either weighed down by last year’s growth, hampered by forces outside regular market influences or reached record-breaking levels.
Silverthorne’s sales tax collections surpassed $1 million in August. It was the first that’s ever happened, but really, it isn’t all that surprising considering how the local economy’s performed over the last decade. And it just keeps coming.
Summit County’s four largest towns — Breckenridge, Silverthorne, Frisco and Dillon — all remain at least 6 percent ahead of 2017’s sales tax collections through the first nine months of 2018. Overall, August was another good month for Summit County, with Breckenridge leading the way — up 6.97 percent compared to August 2017 and 8.8 percent year to date — followed by Silverthorne’s growth with Frisco and Dillon both showing slight declines.
In Breckenridge, only two sectors — utility and construction — lag behind last year’s totals in a year-to-date comparison. However, those declines can be explained, at least in part, by people spending less money on their gas and electric bills and adjustments in the construction sector outside of regular market trends, according to the town’s latest financial report.
On the other hand, four out of the six sectors up in Breckenridge were over 10 percent ahead of last year, including general retail (10.53 percent), restaurants and bars (11.2 percent), lodging (13.74 percent) and the catch-all category of “other” (16.88 percent). At the same time, grocery and liquor sales were up 5.76 percent, and marijuana sales were 2.05 percent ahead, both year to date.
For August, Breckenridge’s restaurants and bars (10.49 percent), retail (11.26 percent), lodging (13 percent) and marijuana (6.32 percent) experienced the most significant increases over August 2017.
Their growth also helped Breckenridge break a record for August’s sales tax collections with over $43 million in taxable sales. While director of finance Brian Waldes called it “a pretty good month,” he added that the town’s been regularly setting these records since emerging from the recession.
“Ten years of this kind of growth is remarkable,” Waldes said of the trend. “But for August, this is the kind of growth we’ve been seeing.”
As a rule, August is one of the bigger months for sales in Silverthorne. This year, however, the town eclipsed the $1 million mark for the first time ever in August and the fourth time this year.
Naturally, that left Silverthorne revenue administrator Kathy Marshall happy with the month’s sales, as the town ended August up 5.41 percent vs. August 2017 and 6.01 percent ahead year to date.
Silverthorne’s sales tax growth has been aided by strong figures coming from the food and liquor category, which Marshall attributed to some new restaurants, like Pho Bay opening and McDonald’s, which was closed in August 2017 for a complete rebuild.
“That’s helping boost it a little bit,” Marshall said of having the McDonald’s back in action, adding that Silverthorne’s newest brewery, Angry James, has been another solid addition since its January opening.
The one category that’s down in Silverthorne is consumer retail. Marshall said she doesn’t have an explanation for that but theorized sales might be flat after such wild growth last year. Marshall believes that because last year was so good for consumer retail, the sector might be struggling to post continued growth this year.
On paper, August’s sales weren’t nearly so upbeat for Dillon as they were for Silverthorne and Breckenridge. The month brought a slight decline for Dillon — down 2.92 percent compared to August 2017 — but the town’s finance director, Carri McDonnell, isn’t too concerned.
That’s because, McDonnell continued, Dillon was up 15 percent in August 2017 over August 2016. With such a strong month last year, achieving the same kind of growth this year was highly unlikely. Even though August didn’t help much, Dillon remains up 10.45 percent year to date — the highest growth rate in Summit County by percentage — and McDonnell feels like that’s still “a very healthy” clip.
Unexpectedly, August sales tax collections came in 3.97 percent behind in Frisco, which is up 6.14 percent year to date. In a memo to town officials, Frisco revenue specialist Chad Most attributed August’s decline in sales to “mismatched year-over-year filings” in the town’s grocery category.
“July’s outsized growth was partly a result of this mismatched timing,” Most wrote in the memo before calling August’s decline “the inevitable correction.” Without this correction, he added, the month would have shown “strong growth.”
Most said town staff remain bullish on Frisco’s economy in the short term and confident budgeted revenues will be met or exceeded by year-end.
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