Basalt’s sales tax surge shows no signs of slowing down.
The town government collected about 25 percent more revenue in August than it did for the same month in 2012, according to a report released by the Finance Department. The town collected $430,962 in August compared with $345,107 the year before, the report showed.
That is significant because it shows that revenue is still on the rise one year after Whole Foods Market opened at Willits Town Center. The grocer opened in mid-August last year. Sales tax collections have soared for the town ever since.
Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon said his first impression when he saw the report was that something was wrong, but a check of the figures verified it was correct.
While Whole Foods was only open for two weeks in August 2012, it was probably a “peak period” because of the attraction of a new store opening, Scanlon said. So it is particularly encouraging for the town that sales continued to grow this August, he said.
The big question is whether it’s a Whole Foods effect or a Willits effect, Scanlon asked. Willits Town Center has attracted numerous other shops in the past year. Basalt Bike and Ski relocated from downtown. Bristlecone Mountain Sports also relocated early this year. Starbucks opened this summer, and a specialty hamburger restaurant is opening this fall.
“Let’s follow the trend for a few more months,” Scanlon said.
Sales tax collections are up nearly 22 percent in 2013, the Finance Department’s report showed. The town has collection $3.09 million this year compared with $2.54 million last year.
Sales are running ahead of pre-recession levels. The town collected $2.9 million through August 2008, the report showed.
Retail food sales continue to drive the growth. Grocery stores as a whole saw their sales jump almost 42 percent in August. The town collected $214,447 in sales tax revenue from grocery stores in August compared with $151,399 for August 2012.
For the year to date, grocery sales are up 35 percent. The town has collected $1.44 million so far this year compared with $1.07 million last year. The Finance Department’s report looks at categories of businesses. The town cannot report on the performance of individual businesses. Basalt is also home to City Market and Clark’s Market as well as Whole Foods.
Another encouraging aspect to the report is it wasn’t just retail food outlets that posted gains.
General retail sales are up nearly 24 percent for the year to date. Sporting-goods retail is up about 17 percent. Retail liquor sales are up 20 percent.
More modest gains were recorded by restaurants with bars, up 2.3 percent, and businesses selling building materials, up 7.2 percent.
Scanlon and town Finance Director Judi Tippetts are sticking to a cautious sales tax revenue projection for 2014. The town budget will anticipate a modest increase in sales tax revenue that keeps pace with inflation, he said. He won’t complain if the revenue comes in higher than projections.
“More fund balance isn’t a bad thing,” Scanlon said.