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Basalt officials not expecting economic recovery until 2008

Basalt officials don’t expect the town’s economy to fully recover from a slump until late this decade.

Town Manager Tom Baker and finance director Renae Gustine told the Town Council this week that budgets for the next few years should continue to be conservative. They reported that they don’t foresee the town’s revenues returning to the 2001 level until possibly 2008.

Sales tax revenues, the biggest part of Basalt’s pie, are down 2 percent through July compared to the same period in 2002 and down 9 percent from 2001. The picture improved slightly in July when sales tax revenues for the month increased 2.5 percent from the prior year.

Through July, the town has collected $884,456 in sales tax revenues. That’s the lowest level over the first seven months since 1999. Last year’s sales tax revenues were $902,253 by the end of July. It was $976,155 in 2001.

Basalt relies heavily on sales tax revenues from retail food sales, primarily the El Jebel City Market. Sales taxes from food stores were up 4 percent through July over 2002 but still lagging behind 1999, 2000 and 2001.

Basalt reacted to tough economic times going into 2003 by cutting its budget 8.5 percent. Most of the savings came from eliminating four staff positions.

“We took the conservative route,” Baker told the Town Council Tuesday night. “I think it’s paying off. I think we’re in good shape.”

The town entered 2003 with a general fund budget of about $3.5 million in expenditures. It anticipated dipping into reserves for about $145,000.

The staff’s expectation that it could take until 2008 to reach revenue levels last seen in 2001 indicates the midvalley’s economic recovery is even slower than once anticipated. When discussing budgets last November, the staff thought revenues might bounce back to 2001 levels by 2006.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com


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