Basalt’s economy kept rolling through July, sale tax revenue up over last year |

Basalt’s economy kept rolling through July, sale tax revenue up over last year

Basalt's economy registered a strong month in July, according to the August sales tax report.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Basalt’s economy kept rolling in the heart of summer despite the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing requirements, according to the town government’s latest sales tax report.

The August report, which reflects actual sales in July, showed tax collections were up 11.6% from August 2019. Leading the way were grocery stores, building materials sellers, general retail, sporting goods retail and, of course, retail liquor.

The town collected $716,496 in sales tax revenue in August from the July sales. That was up from $642,131 for the month last year.

“This result is surprisingly different than one would expect with the financial impacts anticipated by the pandemic,” said the sales tax report prepared by Basalt finance director Christine Chicoine.

In a change from earlier months during the pandemic, restaurants with bars registered a strong 13.6% increase for the month compared with last year. Many restaurants expanded their outdoor seating and weather conditions were favorable throughout July for al fresco dining.

Restaurants without bars didn’t enjoy the same surge. Sales were down 10.3%, according to the sales tax report.

Another sector of the economy that bounced back in July was lodging. It was flat compared with the prior year. However, sales had been down significantly prior to July.

The retail food category, dominated by City Market and Whole Foods, was up 8%. Grocery sales are the single largest contributor to Basalt’s economy.

Retail sales were up 19.6% while sporting goods were up 27.7%, according to the August sales tax report. Chicoine noted in her report that online sales contributed significantly to the strong numbers in July. New state rules apply taxes to online sales this year. Nevertheless, the report also was good for the town’s economy as a whole. The town’s revenue model anticipated about $685,523 in sales tax revenues for the month compared to the actual total of $716,496.

For the year to date, Basalt has far exceeded both expectations in this pandemic-plagued year and last year’s sales. The town has collected nearly $4.8 million in sales tax revenue through the August report. That is up 14.4% from $4.19 million at the same point last year.

The strongest sectors of the town’s economy this year are retail food, up 10.6%; building materials, up 45%; retail liquor, up 23%; general retail, up 39%; and sporting goods retail, up 12%.

Lodging revenue are down 17% for the year to date. Restaurants with bars are down 14.5% while restaurants with bars are down 19%.

Forecasting revenue for 2021 is difficult because the strong summer performance could be tempered by the ongoing pandemic.

“We anticipate our sales tax to come in at 12% over budget for 2020, mostly due to increases from online sales, which is mostly recurring,” Chicoine wrote to the Basalt Town Council in a memo. “However, given the uncertainty of COVID impacts to our local economy in the future, we’ve budgeted 6% lower than our 2020 projection for 2021 budget.”

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