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Sales tax revenue down

City officials can't apinpoint cause of drop

Paul Shockley

Craig’s September sales tax receipts dropped nearly 6 percent from revenues collected in the same month last year.

But city officials find it tough to pinpoint causes for the month’s falloff, which welcomed the start of archery and muzzle-loading seasons for deer and elk.

“It seemed the level of activity in the town picked up,” said Jim Ferree, Craig City Manager.

The city collected $197,756 in September, as opposed to $210,000 for the same month in 2001, according to sales tax figures tracked by the city.

Craig planners budgeted for this September to receive the same revenues as 2001.

While “surprised,” Ferree said the drop is just as inexplicable as the city’s nearly 19 percent increase in August’s year-to-date figures. Revenues topped $209,000 for that month compared to $176,800 in August 2001.

“It could be related to the way it’s reported to the state, or the way the state recycles the money back to the municipalities,” Ferree said.

September’s on-paper decline in activity surprised other local officials and business owners. Cathy Vanatta and the Craig Chamber of Commerce pay attention to foot traffic at the group’s Victory Way office.

“We probably saw the same amount of people, perhaps a tiny bit less but nothing noticeable,” said Vanatta, director of the Craig Chamber.

Mikki O’Brien, general manager at Craig’s Holiday Inn, said declines in guests seen in previous years during the transition between summer and fall didn’t happen this year.

“We were near 70 percent occupancy,” said O’Brien, noting a 10 percent jump from September 2001.

“It’s usually not my best month,” she said, noting the hotel has met or bettered 2001 occupancy levels every month except April.

East of O’Brien at the Black Nugget Motel, owner Karol Janiga said workers at Craig Station staying at weekly rates fueled a 10 to 15 percent rise in guests from September 2001. Tourist numbers were on par with the previous years, he added.

Meanwhile, as numbers fluctuate month-to-month, Craig’s sales tax collection for the year is up 1.48 percent year-on-year.

The city collected $2,325,259 in 2001, and projected the same for 2002.

“We’re fortunate given the state of the economy on the Front Range, and not having to deal with some of their budget cuts,” Ferree said. “We’ve budgeted conservatively, and next year if the economy turns around we’ll be in good shape.”

While escaping the worst, Craig still hasn’t budgeted for new hires next year, and the sluggish growth could lead to some smaller projects being scaled back, Ferree said.

Other Western Slope communities appear to be faring better than Front Range counterparts, said Sam Mamet, associate director of the Colorado Municipal League.

“It’s a mixed bag,” Mamet said. “But from conversations with financial managers across the state, they’re head-scratching more than saying everything’s OK.”

“Grand Junction, among cities, doesn’t seem to be laboring and it’s not clear as to why,” he said, noting the city’s projected 7.6 percent growth in sales tax revenue by year’s end.

A dozen Colorado entities and counties reportedly face budget cuts of $87 million this year.

“We’re hearing chatter about an increasing number of non-profits coming to city councils asking for help, with the state’s budget cuts,” Mamet said.

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 to at pshockley@craigdailypress.com.


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