Steamboat sales tax revenues drop to 5-year low |

Steamboat sales tax revenues drop to 5-year low

Mike Lawrence

April sales tax numbers

— City sales tax revenues in April were the lowest of any month since May 2005, according to a preliminary report released by Steamboat Springs' finance staff Tuesday.

Although May 2009 and April 2006 were within $2,000 of this year's April total, the month's revenues of $907,743 represented a low the city hasn't hit in five years. The preliminary April total represents a 5.6 percent decrease from sales tax revenues in April 2009.

Downtown businesses, hampered by the ongoing recession, as well as April's resumption of the Colorado Department of Transportation repaving project on U.S. Highway 40, dropped 12.5 percent in sales tax revenue compared to April 2009.

There was some good news in the report: April sales tax collections increased at the base of Mount Werner, which saw a 9.4 percent increase compared with a year ago. Citywide lodging revenues also increased, by about 4.7 percent. Those numbers support a recent analysis by David Belin, director of the Boulder-based research firm RRC Associates. Belin said at last month's Economic Summit 2010 that occupancy rates slowly have been climbing this year and that many ski resorts saw a strong end to the ski season after a slow start.

"We're starting to see that (lodging) demand is coming back and occupancy is coming back," Belin said May 20 at The Steamboat Grand.

Belin said this summer's occupancy rates are projected to show a small increase compared with summer 2009. That would be good news for city business owners, many of whom got a taste of tourist-driven foot traffic during a busy Memorial Day weekend but still are struggling through the recession.

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Steamboat Springs revenue supervisor Kim Weber said several factors in addition to construction likely contributed to the city's April drop in sales tax revenues, which wasn't limited to downtown. West Steamboat sales tax revenues fell 12.6 percent in April compared with April 2009, while the U.S. 40 corridor dropped about 6 percent. Businesses across the city are offering discounted pricing and consumers continue to spend less overall, Weber said.

"I think it's all the combinations of all the different attributes, not just one," she said.

On the sunny side, Weber said April's figures were not as bad as she expected after hearing foreboding news from merchants.

"I was concerned that it was going to be a little bit lower than what it was," Weber said.

The city has budgeted a 10 percent decrease in sales tax revenues for 2010. That decrease is on top of the 18 percent decrease budgeted in 2009. April's report puts the city at about a 5.1 percent decrease compared to last year.

Meanwhile, Steamboat businesses are gearing up for summer. The Steamboat Marathon is this weekend, for example, and Triple Crown events start next week.

Tod Allen, of Allen's Clo­thing, said Sunday that he was seeing an increase in downtown traffic — referring to shoppers on sidewalks, not drivers passing through the construction zone.

"It's been good," Allen said about weekend sales. "It's nice to have people in town again."

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail