Steamboat sales tax slide slows in November

November sales tax numbers

Total collections in November 2008: $1,030,654

Total collections in November 2009: $940,897

Percent change: -8.7

Category, 2008, 2009, Percent change

Misc. retail: $622,519, $581,375, -6.6

Lodging: $49,254, $38,291, -22.3

Sporting goods: $42,714, $40,763, -4.6

Utilities: $142,097, $130,583, -8.1

Restaurants: $128,679, $110,821, -13.9

Liquor stores: $45,391, $39,064, -13.9

Area, 2008, 2009, Percent change

Downtown: $156,657, $145,832, -6.9

Base area: $65,707, $57,391, -12.7

U.S. 40 corridor: $442,254, $437,142, -1.2

Regional: $169,879: $156,125, -8.1

West Steamboat: $196,156, $144,407, -26.4

Source: City of Steamboat Springs

— Steamboat Springs’ Nov­ember sales tax collections dropped only 8.7 percent compared with November 2008, bringing city coffers some relief after months of plummeting revenues.

Steamboat collected a total of $940,897 in sales tax revenue in November, compared with $1,030,654 a year ago. The month’s 8.7 percent decrease followed a 23.6 percent decrease in October, a 19.9 percent decrease in September and a 20.4 percent decrease in August, during a year of city budget cuts and staff furloughs.

The November figures represent, finally, a comparison to recessionary impacts a year earlier. City staff members have attributed last year’s large percentage drops in monthly sales tax collections to the fact that those months were compared with non-recession months in 2008. City revenue supervisor Kim Weber said in December that she expected to see a smaller drop in October sales tax figures, thinking the recession struck Steamboat in October 2008. As it turned out, the recession really hit locally one month later, in November 2008, creating sales tax revenues closer to those in November 2009.

“That expectation was a little premature,” City Manager Jon Roberts said about hopes for smaller declines in October. “That expected impact actually would be November and December, so I think we’re seeing that now.”

The city budgeted an 18 percent decrease in sales tax revenue for its general fund in 2009. After November collections, the city stands at about 15.4 percent less than 2008 collections year to date, meaning there could be some breathing room in the budget, rather than the additional cuts some had feared.

The city is budgeting an additional 10 percent decrease in sales tax revenue in 2010.

Wednesday’s city sales tax report was the first under new interim Finance Director Debra Hinsvark, whose first day on the job was Monday. Hinsvark was hired in December for an initial period of six months and $70,000 in salaried pay.

After a few days on the job and a Steamboat Springs City Council meeting Tuesday night, Hinsvark said she was struck by the community’s propensity for civic involvement.

“I feel like everybody I’ve met is really, totally invested in Steamboat. It’s good,” she said. “I get really good vibes here.”

Hinsvark and Roberts an­n­ounced Wednesday an effort to accelerate publication of city sales tax figures, releasing information as many as two weeks earlier than the current practice.

“The city manager, when I got here on Monday, had a list of things that were important for him,” Hinsvark said. “One of the major issues … was more financial transparency, more financial reporting.”

Roberts said the faster release of information would help businesses manage and plan their finances.

“Next month we think we’ll get them out even quicker,” Roberts said.

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