Basalt finally logs increase in monthly sales tax collections | AspenTimes.com

Basalt finally logs increase in monthly sales tax collections

BASALT – Basalt logged its first increase in monthly sales tax revenues in July since late 2007, according to a town report.

Sales were up 7.7 percent over July 2009. It’s especially encouraging because July is a busy month in Basalt, which relies heavily on summer tourism, said Judi Tippetts, town finance director.

The town’s merchants, restaurants and service providers have been hit hard during the recession. Monthly sales tax revenues have dropped each month compared to the year before since December 2007, Tippetts’ research shows. The biggest decline was July 2009, when sales tax collections plummeted 24 percent from the year before.

Basalt officials weren’t willing to declare the economic slump over, but they said July sales were encouraging. The town government estimated in its budget that it would be the third quarter this year before sales tax numbers showed an increase.

“Although our numbers have steadily been increasing in 2010, I worry about our retail vendors because I believe they define the character of our town,” Tippetts said.

She noted that a popular bookstore closed early in the recession and two downtown restaurants recently closed. That created the potential for a snowball effect, with fewer people being attracted downtown during the busy season, which in turn had the potential to affect existing businesses. Tippetts said she was glad to see that the downtown businesses enjoyed a strong month.

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“After completing our sales tax numbers, I felt an incredible sense of relief for our local stores and restaurants,” she said.

Sales tax revenues from general retail stores soared 41 percent in July compared to last year, her report shows. Sporting retail stores had an increase of 9 percent. Restaurants with bars saw an increase in sales of 26 percent. Retail food establishments, Basalt’s single biggest category, were flat.

Businesses that sell building materials continued to face a tough time in July. Sales were off 22 percent.

The town government collected $324,805 in sales tax revenues in July, compared to $301,627 last year.

For the fiscal year to date, December through July, sales tax revenues were down 4 percent. The town has collected $2.13 million. That’s down from $2.22 million the year before.

scondon@aspentimes.com