Carbondale sales tax collections take another double-digit dip
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE – Sales tax collections for the town of Carbondale took another big hit in April, as revenues were down 16 percent compared to the same month last year.
Year to date, sales tax collections for the town are down about 13.4 percent from last year. That’s more than double what town officials had projected when they prepared the 2009 budget last fall.
With May collection figures expected by the first week of July, Carbondale Town Manager Tom Baker told town trustees this week that budget officials will have enough information to begin making projections on which to base next year’s budget.
“As you know, this will be an important exercise because it sets the stage for our 2010 revenue projections,” Baker wrote in a memo to trustees. “We will seek Board of Trustees input throughout these important early budget estimates.”
In the meantime, town staff will continue to sit on about $618,000 in expenditures that were put on hold as revenues began to fall off at the start of the year, he said.
If the revenue trend continues, it will very likely mean a “structural change” in the way the town operates in coming years.
“It is going to be challenging,” Baker said at Tuesday night’s town board meeting.
The good news is that town reserve funds are still healthy, he said.
“We’re still on track to not go into reserves this year,” Baker said.
The drop in sales taxes, which make up about 60 percent of the town’s general fund budget, is causing the town to think differently when it comes to funding some non-essential items.
For instance, one discussion this week related to paying police overtime during the annual Carbondale Mountain Fair weekend and other big events. The town, as part of the 2009 budget, had removed police overtime related to special events.
Trustees agreed, however, to cover approximately $7,000 in overtime during this year’s fair weekend in late July. But they want to have a discussion with fair organizers as part of this fall’s budget talks about how that town expense might be covered in future years.
One option that has been discussed in the past is to get some of the businesses that benefit from greater business during Mountain Fair, such as bars and restaurants, to impose a surcharge for that weekend only.
Trustee John Foulkrod said the town can’t just stop supporting special events, whether it’s police presence or town sponsorship of special events.
“We’ve made some decisions in the past few years that we want our downtown to be our economic engine,” he said. “We need to be careful that we don’t kill that engine.
“We need to do what we can to support our businesses, because if too many of these businesses fall off the shelf, we’re going with them,” Foulkrod said.
He also said it’s important to put the current economic downturn in perspective, noting that sales tax revenues, while off compared to the last two years, are running about the same as 2006 collections.
“We’re down, but not out,” he said. “I don’t see this as being a disaster … it’s more of a belt-tightening.”
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