Retail sales plummet in December; Aspen eyes wage freeze |

Retail sales plummet in December; Aspen eyes wage freeze

Aspen Times Staff Report
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Responding to “ominous” economic trends signaled by a 19.3 percent drop in retail sales in December, the city of Aspen announced a proposed freeze on employee salaries Friday for up to 12 months.

“While the city’s budget forecast is not so bad that we absolutely must freeze wages right now, the trends are ominous,” said City Manager Steve Barwick in a press release. “It is prudent to act now rather than later.”

The salary freezes are expected to save the city roughly $400,000 in the general fund and another $400,000 across other departments, such as the Wheeler Opera House and utilities. The salary freeze would come in addition to roughly $1 million in budget cuts to the general fund proposed by staffers, including summer closure of the Aspen Ice Garden and a reduction in hours at the Aspen Recreation Center. The City Council will consider those cuts in a meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The latest proposed fiscal tightening comes with the release of the year-end sales tax report, prepared by the city finance office. Sales in December 2008 were down 19.3 percent, compared to the same month in 2007. Total sales for the year in 2008 totaled $510,655,773 ” up .5 percent over 2007, according the report.

For details on the year-end report, see Saturday’s Aspen Times.

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