Summit County continues to see expanding economy with sale-tax revenue on the rise |

Summit County continues to see expanding economy with sale-tax revenue on the rise

Fire performer Sara Schaeffer circled by flames during a performance in the Ice Castles Friday, March 9, in Dillon. The town's downtown businesses have seen a nice boost from the popular attraction with February's sales jumping roughly 26 percent above where they were during the first two months of last year.
Hugh Carey /

Wild growth continued across Summit County throughout February as each of the county’s four biggest towns saw their economies expand to levels well above February 2017.

Even better news for the local economy is that while three out of four towns saw double-digit hikes compared to February 2017, Breckenridge, Frisco, Silverthorne and Dillon were all trending 8.2 percent to 23.1 percent ahead year to date, according to the most recent financial reports available.

“I keep saying (this high rate of growth is unsustainable), but then I turn around and report 10 percent growth again,” noted Chad Most, revenue specialist for the town of Frisco.

Most said he expects it to slow down at some point, but apparently, February is not going to be that month. Also, he’s expecting late-season snow to continue to boost the local economy coming into the summer months.

What’s going on in Dillon?

Of Summit’s four biggest towns, Dillon led the way for growth in February with estimated sales tax receipts jumping 15.3 percent compared to February 2017. That came after a blockbuster January that put Dillon up over 30 percent.

As a result, the town was 23.1 percent ahead through the first two months of the year.

As far as where this growth is occurring, “some of it truly is just a good, strong local economy,” said Dillon finance director Carri McDonnell.

But she also credited booming business on Dillon Ridge — up almost 21.5 percent year to date — at the same time that the Ice Castle, a popular attraction running from Dec. 28 to March 10, drew large crowds to the downtown area.

As a result, McDonnell said, downtown sales through January and February were roughly 26 percent above where they were during the first two months of last year.

Fast times in frisco

After seeing 6.1 percent growth in January, Frisco was up 10.4 percent compared to February 2017, easily exceeding the town’s best expectations for growth and helping put Frisco 8.2 percent ahead through the first two months of the year.

“We finally got some snow in February, so that was helpful,” said Most, who has also noticed the stores off Interstate 70’s exit 203 developing into a major hub for grocery, not just for Summit County locals but for travelers working their way across the I-70 corridor. “We weren’t anticipating 10 percent, and that’s good news for the business community for sure.”

Carrying the load for that growth were the town’s three most impactful sectors — restaurants (up 8.3 percent), general retail (up 7.5 percent) and grocery (up 4.8 percent) — that account for the bulk of Frisco’s sales.

Less impactful categories like furnishings (36.9 percent), vacation rentals (24.3 percent), recreation (9.5 percent), marijuana (4.1 percent) and liquor (3.4 percent) were all up as well compared to February 2017.

Meanwhile, sectors such as clothing, hotels and inns and gifts saw their sales slow from 9-16 percent.

According to Most, “unsustainable levels of historic growth always seem to regress to the mean,” but that hasn’t happened yet.

It’s bigger in Breck

In Breckenridge, the town is reporting estimated net taxable sales of $143 million through the first two months of 2018, which puts the town up 5.9 percent compared to February 2017 and 8.2 percent year to date.

Restaurants and bars (7.4 percent), construction (6 percent), retail (5.3 percent), and grocery and liquor (2.4 percent) saw growth in February. Additionally, lodging was up 8.3 percent, which town finance officials attribute to an increased number of monthly returns being filed.

The town’s most impactful sectors are lodging, restaurants and bars, general retail, and grocery and liquor and all four were ahead year to date through the first two months of 2018.

Because Breckenridge has a retail tax base that exceeds a half-billion annually, the town sees much less dramatic spikes than others across Summit County.

double digits in silverthorne

Like Dillon and Frisco, Silverthorne too saw double-digit economic growth in February compared to the same month in 2017 with estimated sales spiking 12.9 percent.

Year to date, Silverthorne was up 10.5 percent through the first two months of 2017, with the most significant increase showing up in the services category, which was up 330 percent compared to February 2017 and 156 percent year to date.

Silverthorne revenue administrator Kathy Marshall noted the sharp increase in the services category was due to “several months of amended returns” resulting in Silverthorne receiving a one-time payment of more than $120,000 in additional sales taxes.

“The vendor is being audited by the state, so if this payment was in error there may be a correction later in the year,” she added.

Silverthorne’s lodging posted the second-highest dollar increase for the town, jumping 11.8 percent compared to February 2017 and going 9.2 percent ahead year to date.

The outlets, which had a great January, were mostly flat this February, but there’s reason for optimism on the horizon with new store openings in March and April and an ongoing mud season sale ending May 6.

Silverthorne did see declines in consumer retail (-9.2 percent), building retail (-7.8 percent) and auto (-5.6 percent), but gains in other sectors were more than enough to offset the losses in tax revenue for the town and, according to Marshall, the dips can all be attributed to corrections and “timing differences” in tax collections, rather than actual February sales.

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