Basalt sales tax collections surge 10% in 2015

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times


Retail food $2,062,905 +6.77%

General retail $812,344 +26.3%

Sports retail $216,476 +10.5%

Restaurants w/bars $387,726 +9.97%

Building $276,876 +15.82%

Lodging $61,582 -2.54%

Restaurants w/o bars $121,771 -0.43%

Basalt’s retail sales and sales tax collections climbed for the third straight year in 2015 and surged 10 percent above the 2014 level, according to a town report.

Basalt collected $4.65 million last year through its 3 percent sales tax. The 10 percent growth over 2014 exceeded expectations, according to Town Manager Mike Scanlon. The town staff typically budgets for sales tax growth of 2 to 3 percent.

The town collected $4.22 million in sales taxes in 2014.

Two-thirds of the sales tax revenue go to the general fund. One-third is dedicated to parks, open space and trails.

The sales tax collections show that Basalt businesses accounted for about $155 million in sales last year.

Basalt’s economy is carried by retail food sales, primarily by City Market and Whole Foods. The town collected $2.06 million in sales taxes from retail food sales alone last year. That indicates sales of about $70 million.

The grocery stores experienced 6.77 percent growth last year, the town report showed. Other business categories that experienced a surge in 2015 were general retail shops (up 26.3 percent), sporting-goods retail (up 10.5 percent), building materials (up 15.82 percent) and restaurants that sell liquor (up 9.97 percent). Liquor stores’ sales were up a more modest 4.7 percent for the year. Automotive-related services were up 10 percent.

Lodging was down 2.54 percent in 2015. Restaurants that don’t sell liquor saw sales sag 0.43 percent.

The figures are for the categories overall. Individual businesses may perform better or worse than the category.

Scanlon said sales and, therefore, tax collections surged during the second half of the year. Many business operators reported a very strong summer, he said.

Despite a rough three-year stretch from 2009 to 2011, the Basalt business community overall has left the recession in its rear-view mirror. Current sales and sales tax collections are about 21 percent above the prerecession level in 2008, the report showed. The town collected $3,801,615 in sales taxes in 2008 compared with $4.65 million last year.

Overall sales were about $129 million in 2008 compared with about $155 million in 2015. A significant amount of growth is due to the opening of Whole Foods.

The strong performance appears to be in contrast to some comments made during debates about Basalt’s financial health. Some members of the council have contended that the town’s revenue isn’t growing and that Basalt hasn’t completely recovered from the recession.

Some commercial property owners have repeatedly claimed during talks about economic vitality that downtown is withering.

Sales tax revenue accounts for more than 50 percent of Basalt’s revenue. The amount of sales taxes collected is more than four times as much as property taxes collected.