Routt County sales tax revenues continue to surprise; up 50% since 2019 |

Routt County sales tax revenues continue to surprise; up 50% since 2019

$11.2 million the county is projected to collect this year is 17% higher than 2021

Routt County’s sales tax revenues have continued to surge higher this year, with the latest end-of-year projections showing the county will have collected about 40% more than anticipated.

Sales tax revenues have historically grown at about 5% a year, according to County Finance Director Dan Strnad. But since the onset of the pandemic, theses revenues have continued to surprise. 

The $11.2 million expected to come in this year is roughly a 50% increase from sales taxes collected in 2019, and Strnad expects the county will collect 17% more in sales taxes this year than it did in 2021.

Strnad said this increase comes from a variety of products, from lodging and dining expenses largely paid by visitors to home improvement materials generally bought by locals. Even products like alcohol and marijuana are still seeing growth in terms of sales tax collected.

“It’s all of the above,” Strnad said. “We got a lot of people here.”

These projections are based on sales tax the county has collected through July, meaning they still could change before the end of the year. Strnad said the state of Colorado physically collects the taxes and then remits them to the county, which is why there is a reporting delay.

Between January and June, sales tax revenues averaged 49% more than what was budgeted. In July, the surplus was less, though it still came in up about 31%. Strnad said he used that 31% to estimate the rest of the year, and he will adjust his projection as more data comes out.

The data for August should be out this week, Strnad said. August is typically the third-highest sales tax collecting month, behind December and March, Strnad said.  

Other county revenues are up as well.

Strnad projects that building use tax, collected based on building permits, is up nearly $480,000, or 30% higher than anticipated in the budget. Auto use taxes paid on the purchase for a car are up about $350,000 or 58% over what was budgeted.

While a less significant total, even motor vehicle fees are up about 20%, leading to an additional $80,000 in county coffers. Each of these fees were up considerably last year as well.

Not all revenues are up though. Projections for interest the county accrues have taken a hit this year as the Federal Reserve continues to raise rates, which Strnad said lessens the value of bonds the county had at the lower rate. On the balance sheet, it accounts for about a $1 million loss, though that loss would only manifest if the county sold the securities it possesses.

“We still have to recognize those things as a loss, even though we’re not going to sell any of them,” Strnad said.

Overall, the county projects to collect about $2.8 million more this year than what was budgeted, or an additional 8%.

When looking at next year, revenues are projected to be about 9% more than what was budgeted for this year, an increase of $3.8 million. Revenues are forecasted at $41.7 million for 2023, compared to a current projection of $40.7 million this year.

Routt County Commissioners will hear a similar presentation again next week as they work to pull together the 2023 budget. The county budget can fluctuate considerably from year to year — largely depending on capital expenses like road improvements — but it averages between $40 million and $45 million.

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