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Basalt residents aren’t letting a pandemic slow their shopping

Staff report
A woman crosses Midland Avenue in downtown Basalt on Thursday, June 25, 2020. Sales tax revenues have been strong despite the pandemic. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Basalt officials feared town revenue would plummet when the economy soured after the coronavirus struck. Instead, sales tax collections have surged through May.

Revenue is up 13.4% for the year-to-date, according to the June sales tax report. Basalt has collected $3.37 million through the first half of the fiscal year compared with $2.97 million through the first half of last year.

Retail food sales, primarily by Whole Foods and City Market, are up 11.4% year-to-date.

May was a particularly robust month, according to the June sales tax report, which reflects actual sales in May. Sales tax revenue was up 17.4% for the month.

“This result is surprisingly different than one would expect with the financial impacts anticipated by the pandemic,” Basalt finance director Christy Chicoine wrote in a memo to Town Council. “This increase is mostly attributed to the new state sales tax rules requiring the remittance for online sales.”

But Basalt’s grocery stores also fared well in May. Retail food sales were up 20.6%. People have to eat, even in uncertain times such as a pandemic.

People also drank, built and shopped in May. Retail liquor sales were up 46.3%, according to the June sales tax report. Building material sales were up 39.2%. General retail shops saw a 50.4% increase while sporting goods retail was up 51.3%.

It wasn’t all good news in actual sales in May. Lodging was down 52.9%, restaurants with bars were off 10.2% and restaurants without bars were down 40%. They were affected by the stay-at-home order and phased reopening of the economy.

“The revenue model anticipated $473,941 in sales tax collections for the month of June, and the actual totaled $574,196,” Chicoine said in her report. “Therefore, the revenue modeling has been adjusted up to reflect the actual impacts.”


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