Carbondale sales tax revenues slow |

Carbondale sales tax revenues slow

John StroudCarbondale correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE Carbondale is faring better than many municipalities around Colorado, but is still seeing the effects of a national recession that will weigh heavily in the towns budget planning for next year.Year-to-date retail sales tax for the first half of 2008 (through June) is 4 percent over 2007 collections. However, thats a substantial decline from the 13.8 percent increase the town saw for the same period from 2006 to 2007.Sales tax revenue is also running below the projected 5 percent growth rate used to prepare this years budget. However, other general fund revenues, including use taxes on construction-related activities and motor vehicle purchases, have made up the difference so far, according to Carbondale Finance Director Nancy Barnetts mid-year financial report, presented at Tuesdays regular town council meeting.Sales tax collections were up over last year in five of the first six months of 2008, including a double-digit increase (10.64 percent) for February. There was a 1.13 percent drop in sales tax revenues in May, while June, typically the first big summer-season month for sales taxes, saw only a 2.15 percent increase over last year.Most town funds are performing at or above projections, Barnett reported. As the summer progresses, the General Fund will see increased expenses related to seasonal programs in streets, parks, recreation. The summer season also represents our strongest sales tax month, so we are anticipating a greater increase in collections than we have seen to date.Time to focusStill, the slowdown in sales tax revenue is cause for some caution entering the 2009 town budgeting cycle.It is clear that the trend is changing from what we have seen the last three years, and that the trend is for slower growth moving forward, Town Manager Tom Baker said at Tuesday nights meeting. It may be that the wise thing to do is to shoot for a flat sales tax projection in 09.Tuesdays presentation included a discussion about policy direction related to budget planning for next year.While 2008 has been a busy year for construction, with work on the downtown streetscape and major street reconstruction projects on Colorado Avenue and in the Colorado Meadows neighborhood, next year may be a good year for planning, rather than actual construction, Baker said.The opposite may be true for the town planning department and the planning and zoning commission, which will have three major projects on the table for review in the coming months and likely extending into 2009 The Overlook development, the new plan for the Crystal River Marketplace, and the planned Thompson Park annexation and residential development.For that reason, some of the code revision and master planning work that the P&Z had asked to be budgeted for next year may have to wait. Mayor Michael Hassig emphasized the need for P&Z and town staff to remain focused through the review process for those projects.At what point is planning a luxury? the mayor asked rhetorically. And I wonder whether given the scale of those projects this is not the time to do theoretical zoning.The three projects combined will represent some 40 acres worth of new residential and commercial development.Thats a huge amount of development in the context of this town, Hassig said.

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