Summit County sales tax revenues have jumped to a post-recession high, with a strong ski season and bustling summer tourism continuing into the fall. With the steady increase in funds since 2007, several of Summit County’s municipalities have been able to move forward with larger plans for construction and other improvements.
Chad Most, revenue specialist for the town of Frisco, referred to this year’s spike as “unsustainably high levels of growth.”
“We had a multitude of factors come together to make it go so well,” Most said. “We don’t want to oversell ourselves for the next year.”
He listed off the late spring snow, the lack of drought or wildfires and low unemployment rates as a few examples.
Looking at next year’s revenues, Frisco budgeted for no sales tax increase over the current year. Dillon budgeted for a one-percent jump, reflecting the addition of a few new businesses to the town in the last year.
“We don’t budget for businesses until they’ve actually opened,” said Carri McDonnell, Dillon’s finance director.
SHOW ME THE MONEY
Looking at figures from January through July, Frisco’s sales tax revenues are up 14.15 percent when compared to 2014. From 2011, revenues have steadily increased, with 2014 bringing in a total of $6,852,990. In 2013, the town saw $5,905,223.
Many of the increases have ties to tourism, with restaurants, hotels, retail and recreation seeing a moderate boost in the last year. Most said that December, March and July are the town’s busiest months for tourism, bringing increases across the board.
Surprisingly, groceries, liquor and marijuana saw large increases between 2014 and 2015, up 31 percent, 33 percent and 76 percent, respectively. While these numbers are impacted by fluctuations in visitors and recreational marijuana’s recent legalization, new businesses, such as Whole Foods, factor in significantly.
“The addition of Whole Foods has caused the growth in the grocery category to skyrocket over the past year or so, while our restaurant and hotels and inns categories have also seen significant growth,” Most said. “In addition, it is important to note that gains in tourism are also tied to the increased purchasing power of local employees and residents, and an influx of potential new second-home owners, which indirectly impacts all other categories.”
In Dillon, fall-season tourism has been growing steadily in the past two years, according to director of marketing and communications Kerstin Anderson.
“Destination travel primarily tracks school schedules,” Anderson said. “Winter is our largest revenue driver, but we also see significant revenue in summer.”
She noted that Dillon’s retail, restaurant and lodging categories are tied most closely to tourism, with retail seeing the greatest gain in the last four years.
“All categories have rebounded and seen an increase over 2009,” Anderson said. “Tourism and revenue are significantly tied both in supporting a year-round work force that drives a base line of revenue throughout the year, but also in driving peak revenue numbers in prime winter and summer months.”
This year, Dillon has already seen $2,818,362 in sales tax revenues, with March as a peak month. Last year, the town brought in $5,376,666, a slight increase from 2013.
With the increased revenue streaming in, both towns have been able to move forward with construction and maintenance projects that had been delayed since the recession.
“The revenue growth experienced from 2003 to 2007 directly impacted our ability to invest in the Frisco Adventure Park, and the revenue growth experienced from 2011 to 2014 impacted the scope of the Step Up Main Street project,” Most noted.
He added that increased revenues would not affect current projects in Frisco, but would impact town council spending decisions in future years.
Renovations to Dillon’s Marina Park were a result of the larger pool of funds, McDonnell said. She noted that the other capital projects, such as newly repaved streets, also stemmed from the sales tax revenue.
Scott O’Brien, Dillon public works director, noted that plans for Marina Park had been in place for a while, but were stalled due to a lack of necessary funds.
“Certainly because of the recession, we had some plans that we had to delay for some time,” O’Brien said. “Revenues are up, and we’ve been able to move those forward again.”
This summer, the park was transformed with fresh landscaping and a brand new playground, with plans moving forward for Dillon’s Town Park for next year.