Eagle County braces for $2 million drop in revenue | AspenTimes.com

Eagle County braces for $2 million drop in revenue

Chris Outcalt
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” Eagle County could see a 5.2 percent decrease in revenue ” about $2 million ” in 2009, according to County Finance Director John Lewis.

Lewis has drafted preliminary figures for county commissioners to review, but won’t have a finalized budget until Dec. 15.

“We’re still trying to sharpen our pencils,” Lewis said. “There will be changes made constantly.”

Lewis’ preliminary projections assume a decrease in sales tax revenue and accounts for a drop in money from building permits. The county will get about $180,000 in new property tax revenue from some new construction, he said.

Lewis is anticipating a 5 percent decrease in sales tax revenue for the county in 2009, which amounts to about $427,000, he said.

“I think we’re thinking the odds are pretty good that if the decrease is more than 5 percent it won’t be that much more,” Lewis said.

The county has only had one year since 1984 when sales tax revenue decreased. In 2003, sales tax revenue was down 6 percent, he said. Lewis considered Vail’s sales tax projections ” down 5.7 percent ” when formulating a number for the county.

“We’re less reliant on tourists so we should do a little better than that,” he said.

Eagle County includes the ski resort areas of Vail and Beaver Creek, as well as a sliver of the Roaring Fork Valley that takes in El Jebel, Missouri Heights and part of Basalt.

Sales tax only accounts for about 20 percent of the county’s revenue ” a good thing in what’s likely to be a year when people spend less, Lewis said.

“That’s low in comparison to a lot of other places,” he said. “Even if we had a 10 percent decrease ” that would be historic and would be a 2.2 percent decrease in total revenue.”

Lewis took Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass sales into account while working on the budget.

“Apparently they’ve sold a lot of Epic Passes,” he said. “In Denver, the trend is for more people to stay over and have dinner, so maybe the average revenue generated per skier is more.”

The commissioners directed all departments to present budgets with no increase in expenditures.

“As we moved forward in the cycle we recognized that the economy was changing and there were significant things happening that reach far out of the boundaries of Eagle County,” said County Commissioner Sara Fisher.

Each department has already presented a draft budget to the board.

“We’re waiting for the amended results,” Fisher said.

Lewis said the county will be able to get a better indication on revenues after ski season.

The commissioners could set some money aside in a contingency accounts and determine in six months whether to use it for funding requests, Lewis said.

“The big thing is we’re still in the discussion stages,” he said. “None of us have a crystal ball.”

The budget process has been challenging, but interesting, Fisher said.

“We’re very cognizant of what’s happening outside of our boundaries as well as inside and are trying to be the best stewards we can with the dollars.”

Lewis will make a formal presentation on the budget on Dec. 9. The commissioners have to approve a budget by Dec. 15.


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