In a welcome development, Mesa County municipalities have seen a significant bump in sales tax revenue heading into the fourth quarter of 2018, pushing nearly 10 percent over budget projections in some cases.
"It certainly was a welcome relief after years of being flat or lower. It's nice to have a bit of breathing room," Palisade town Treasurer Joe Vlach said.
Palisade has seen an uptick of between 7 and 8 percent in its sales tax revenue over this point in 2017. The town board had planned for a 3 percent increase in 2018 and will plan for another 3 percent increase in its 2019 budget.
Vlach said the town will now be able to complete some projects that had been put on hold and make plans to replace equipment in the 2019 budget, which is still in progress.
A draft of the budget is available online on the town's website, townofpalisade.org.
Numbers have been similar in Grand Junction, where sales tax is up 8.3 percent over last year and 7 percent over the 2018 budget projections. Mesa County has seen a 9.6 percent spike in sales tax revenue over last year and 8.4 percent more than the projected total in the 2018 budget. Fruita's city sales tax is up 7.1 percent so far in 2018 and the county sales tax it takes in is up 10.57 percent.
Grand Junction, Fruita, Palisade, Collbran and De Beque collectively take in 0.55 percent of the county's 2 percent sales tax.
Grand Junction Finance Director Jodi Romero said the city has been conservative with its budgeting, projecting only a 1 percent jump in sales tax revenue in its 2018 budget. For 2019, the city projects a 3 percent increase in sales tax revenue.
Romero said while she is not surprised that the numbers have exceeded projections, she's taken aback a bit by the amount by which they have outpaced projections.
"Compared to the overall national economy with job growth and unemployment rates, it doesn't surprise me," Romeo said. "It usually adds to consumer confidence and folks spend on more discretionary items."
The excess funds from sales tax are divided between the city's general fund and capital fund. The city could move up a planned construction project if needed, but Romero said there was no such plan for a project this year. However, the city can plan to spend the extra money in next year's budget if staff chooses.
In addition to the economy's turnaround, Romero noted warm weather, more special events and an increase in visitors as reasons for a spike in sales tax revenue.
"All of those things add to those sales tax dollars," she said.
The city's share of the county's 0.37 percent public safety tax, which was implemented this year after voter approval in November 2017, has also performed well, bringing in more than $280,000 as of August, 22 percent above what was expected in the budget.
The city is saving this money to go toward a fire truck for Fire Station No. 6.
Some of the biggest sales tax increases have come from the medical, oil and gas and construction industries, all posting more than 30 percent gains from last year's sales tax numbers. Retail has still performed well, growing 6.4 percent over last year, according to data from Mesa County.
Mesa County will budget for a 3 percent increase in sales tax revenue in 2019, according to Fiscal Accountant Sara Tourney.
In Fruita, Finance Director Margaret Sell said the city budgeted for a slight decrease over what it received in sales tax in 2017.
Sell also noted oil and gas and construction growth as key factors in the sales tax increase.
"We're pleasantly surprised that it's up as much as it is," Sell said. "This has been the biggest year by far. But we try to budget conservatively."