Basalt sales tax revenue sets record despite downtown woes | AspenTimes.com

Basalt sales tax revenue sets record despite downtown woes

Basalt sales tax Growth

Retal food 0.23%

General retail -1.14%

Sporting goods 10.85

Restaurants w/bars 5.78%

Building materials 29.6

Liquor 6.5%

Lodging 37.5%

Overall 3.6%*

*Through November. Source: Town of Basalt

Basalt sales tax revenues were up 3.6 percent through November over 2013’s record amount for the same period.

The town government has collected $3.93 million through 11 months of 2014 compared with $3.79 million in 2013, according to a report prepared by Finance Director Judi Tippetts. The report reflects actual sales from December 2013 through October. November is the last month of the fiscal year. Sales for that month aren’t available yet.

Basalt’s bread and butter for sales tax revenues are its grocery stores. Grocery sales soared when Whole Foods Market opened in 2012 and they continued to grow throughout 2013. They are flat this year, with sales tax revenues at $1.80 million compared with $1.79 million over the same 11-month period the prior year.

Retail food sales accounted for about 45 percent of all sales tax revenues both years.

Other major sectors of Basalt’s economy were mostly solid in 2014. General retail shops saw sales sag 1.14 percent. That includes many of the mom-and-pop-type stores. However, sporting-goods retailers saw sales climb 10.85 percent over the 11 months.

Restaurants with bars saw their sales climb 5.78 percent in 2014, the report showed. Retail liquor sales climbed nearly 6.5 percent, while stores that sell building materials experienced their best year since 2008. Sales were up nearly 30 percent as construction hit full throttle again in 2014.

Sales tax generated by hotels and lodges were up 37.5 percent.

The sales tax report reflects the general performance by businesses in a category. Individual businesses could perform better or worse than the category as a whole.

The report doesn’t compare tax generations between downtown businesses and those at Willits Town Center and West Basalt.

The record year for sales tax generation comes at a time when the town government and business community are focused on revitalizing downtown.

Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon said the 2014 performance wasn’t that surprising, given national and local events.

“I think that our sales tax growth in 2014 trends with the overall increase in the nation’s GDP,” Scanlon said, referring to gross domestic product, a central economic indicator.

Scanlon also said the town’s sales tax revenues have stabilized after the initial growth after Whole Foods opened.

When asked if it was good that Basalt’s sales tax revenue increased over a record year or bad that it managed just marginal growth, Scanlon said he was optimistic.

“I’m going with half full when you consider all the vacancies in downtown,” he said. “2016 is the year we’re likely to see a bigger-than-usual bounce in sales tax.”

A hotel is scheduled to open in Willits Town Center late this year. That hotel is expected to help generate additional traffic and sales.

Robin Waters, director of the Basalt Chamber of Commerce, said her sense from talking informally with business owners is that established businesses of all types were experiencing a good year.

“The streets downtown and at Willits are filled up” during the holiday season, she noted. “It still remains challenging getting new businesses started.”

When asked to explain how there can be downtown woes at the same time the town is setting a sales tax record, Waters said the strong performance isn’t across the board.

“There is booming in pockets of Basalt,” she said. While the fundamentals of the town’s economy are strong, there is room for improvement — and it’s coming, according to Waters.

“What we’re looking for is more vitality and more vibrancy,” she said. “It isn’t there yet, but it’s getting there.”

scondon@aspentimes.com


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