Spring break crowds, fresh snow and slushy skiers are just a piece of March in Summit County. And if the most recent sales tax numbers are any indication, it was a full house this spring.
Across the board, Summit County towns saw a significant increase in collections year-to-date, for both sales taxes and lodging, or accommodations taxes. Breckenridge saw an 8-percent increase in sales tax collections year-to-date, collecting $6,194,255 through the month of March. The town saw a more significant increase in its accommodations tax, levied on hotels, inns and vacation rentals. Year-to-date, the town saw a 12.84-percent jump in accommodations collections, for a total of $1,471,797.
“I think the majority of it comes from increased visitation and changes in rates as well,” said Breckenridge financial services manager Brian Waldes. “Accommodations can really fluctuate quickly.”
By industry, short-term lodging revenues jumped to surpass retail and restaurants, which traditionally lead in terms of dollars. Perhaps due to the influx of visitors during one of the town’s busiest months, short-term lodging accounted for a whopping 36 percent of sales tax collections, outpacing retail at 24 percent and restaurants/bars at 23 percent.
In addition, short-term lodging brought in a significant increase in sales tax collections for the month, at 10.32 percent.
“We’ve had a jump in the number of licenses,” Waldes said.
While they are certainly a factor, he noted that short-term rentals don’t have as strong of an impact on collections.
Frisco, while just over half the size of Breckenridge, saw a comparable increase in collections percentage-wise. Year-to-date, the town saw an 8.57-percent increase in sales tax collections as of March, for a total of $2,368,916.
“We’re incredibly impressed with our business community here,” Frisco revenue specialist Chad Most said.
Several sales tax categories saw significant jumps in the first quarter of 2016. Grocery jumped seven percent, liquor sales jumped 17 percent and marijuana sales were up 44 percent year-to-date. Hotels and inns also saw a small increase, of just over five percent, while vacation rentals jumped 20 percent.
“That’s tremendous growth in March, especially when you view it over the last five years,” Most said. “We had quite the increase in licenses.”
Between the first quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016, the town saw an additional 58 vacation-rental accounts open. Vacation rentals, like hotels, inns and other lodging businesses, are subject to both the town’s sales tax and lodging tax.
“That was certainly a big impact,” Most said. “Those could be a combination of brand new rentals coming on the market, or it’s folks who may have been renting for a little while and were educated to come into compliance.”
As far as the town’s lodging tax is concerned, Frisco saw a 13.74 percent surge in collections through the end of March. Comparing the sectors of hotels, inns and B&Bs, and vacation rentals, short-term rentals still trail the hotel industry by an ever-narrowing margin.
Of all lodging tax collections, hotels, inns and B&Bs accounted for 60 percent of the total, while vacation rentals accounted for a smaller, but substantial chunk of 40 percent.
At the other end of the Blue, Silverthorne and Dillon were not exempt from the lodging boom. Silverthorne saw a more modest increase in overall tax revenues, at about three percent year-to-date for a total of $2,514,256 in collections.
“Because Easter was in March, we had a higher revenue in March than we did in April,” Silverthorne revenue administrator Kathy Marshall said. “It seems to make a difference. After Easter, that’s when the tourists dwindle a little bit.”
Like February, the consumer retail sector was king, at 26 percent, followed by the Outlets, at 22.5 percent. Sales at the Outlets were still down compared with 2015, at a 12.25 percent decrease through the end of March.
On the other end of the spectrum, Silverthorne continued to see eye-popping increases in sales tax collections for hotels, inns and vacation rentals, up 37.6 percent year-to-date. In total, that translated to about $54,000 more than the end of March last year.
The increases were even more dramatic for the town’s separately levied lodging tax, up 39 percent for a total of $101,079.
“I think the majority of it is the hotels because short-term rentals don’t generate a ton of revenue,” Marshall said. “The new hotel’s helping quite a bit.”
In Dillon, sales tax revenues increased seven percent year-to-date, for a total of $1,752,643 in collections. The town’s lodging tax also saw a slight increase after lower reports in January and February, up 5.25 percent year-to-date through the month of March.