Sales tax suspense

Revenues on the rise, but no one knows why

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Is it a new store? An influx of pipeline workers? Or just a fluke?

No one knows exactly why, but city sales tax is up for the fifth consecutive month. And Finance Director Bruce Nelson expects the trend to continue through the end of the year.

September figures sales tax, the most recent data available, exceeded last year's by more than $40,000, which means the city is $172,921.33 ahead in revenue compared with the same period last year.

The tax rate is 2.25 percent.

Officials say they can only speculate about the reasons sales tax revenue is up.

"Murdoch's opened in August, and the timing is right for the impact to be from pipeline workers, so it's probably a little bit of both," City Manager Jim Ferree said.

Andy Keith, assistant manager of the newly opened Murdoch's Ranch and Home supply, said he doesn't know whether the store can take all the credit, but he feels some is due.

He said business is going well, with nearly 40 percent of the store's customers coming from outside of Moffat County.

"We get a ton of people from Baggs, Vernal, Hayden, Steamboat and Meeker," he said. "It's huge."

Peggy Herndon, who works in Kmart's accounting department, said Murdoch's may be the reason for the higher sales tax revenue. In her store, sales for the past five months have been up and down.

"The weather plays a big part in sales, at least for us," she said. "It's really hard to tell whether we're having an impact."

May, June and July are usually busy months for the store because baseball tournaments draw large numbers to Craig. But, business generally slows until hunting season opens in October.

Sales tax revenue collected by the county was up 25.73 percent in September and 19.42 percent in August. That, too, is a boon for the city, which gets 37.5 percent of the 2 percent county sales tax collected in city limits.

Although the dollars aren't as many, it still puts the city $59,729.95 ahead of last year.

Sales tax accounts for nearly half the city's general fund revenue.

City officials budgeted for a 4.18 percent increase in 2006, though the amount will likely be higher based on recent figures, Ferree said. The city has actually collected 6.22 percent more this year compared with the same period last year.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031 or ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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