Basalt’s sales tax revenues surge 13% in first quarter

Sales have climbed since the initial shock of the pandemic wore off

Basalt didn’t wait for the economic boom that economists expect to sweep the country once the COVID-19 pandemic loosens its grip. Instead, Basalt has boomed for the past several months.

The town’s first quarter sales tax revenues for 2021 were up 13.2 percent compared to the first three months of last year, according to the latest report by finance director Christy Chicoine.

The surge comes on the heels of a record-breaking year. The town reaped $7.73 million in sales tax revenues in pandemic-plagued 2020 — more than a $1 million or 15 percent more than in 2019. While a new tax on online sales was responsible for some of the explosion, the town also saw strong sales locally in building materials, groceries and retail goods.

Evidence is pointing to another healthy increase in sales tax revenues this year, Chicoine wrote in a memo to the Town Council members.

“Given the increases in sales tax seen over the last six months, we can expect the Town’s sales tax budget to come in ahead of budget,” she wrote. Current trends are pointing to a 10 percent increase, she said.

Retail food sales — led by the town’s two large grocery stores — were up 4.3 percent during the first quarter, the report showed. Sales tax revenues from retail food sales alone raised $596,608 during the first quarter.

The building boom in the Roaring Fork Valley shows no signs of abating. Sales of building materials by Basalt businesses were up 63 percent during the first quarter.

Double-digit growth was also logged by the retail, sporting goods retail and liquor/marijuana sectors.

Restaurants with bars managed a 1.2 percent increase in what was a tough year because of capacity limits. Restaurants without bars suffered through the year with a 14.3 percent decline in sales.

The lodging industry is still facing a tough time due to people being cautious during the pandemic. Lodging revenues were down 20 percent in the first quarter.

Basalt’s challenge will be matching last year’s sales levels starting in June. Sales surged last year — contrary to expectations — as second-homeowners and long-term renters flocked to the mountains to escape urban areas. But so far, so good this year. Sales tax revenues were up 8.6 percent for March over the same month last year.