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Lodger’s tax receipts up in March

While local sales tax receipt collections continue to indicate a moribund economic climate, the Town Tourism Committee reports a much brighter picture for local lodging establishments.

On Monday, TTC Coordinator Jennie Green reported that lodger’s tax receipts in the Town of Pagosa Springs for March 2010 showed a 16.4-percent increase over the same month last year. On top of that, Green stated that, “A couple of smaller properties have yet to report. I suspect it could be as much as 17 percent.”

The 16.4 percent increase translates to nearly a $6,000 increase in income for the TTC. Currently, the TTC is entirely funded from lodger’s tax receipts.

Better yet, according to Green, the March numbers not only show an increase from last year but also from the two previous years. The fact that this March was better than the same month in 2007 is meaningful, given that most analysts identify the start of the current recession in December 2007.

“It’s encouraging,” Green said. “We’re not just seeing a trend of increases over the previous year, but also over past years.”

The increase suggests that spring break was bustling for Pagosa Country, news that could bode well for local merchants.

Certainly, local merchants could use some good news. As reported two weeks ago in The SUN, sales tax receipts (a leading economic indicator for Archuleta County) continue to show a sluggish response to a larger, national economic recovery.

On April 13, a report on sales tax revenues collected during the month of February indicated that sales tax revenues increased .05 percent over the same month last year. That same report indicated that during a 12-month period, sales tax receipts were down 6.87 percent from a year previous and down 7.07 percent in the first two months of 2010.

While the minuscule increase at least indicated a leveling out of an economy in free fall, the news was not completely optimistic. In February 2009, sales tax receipts were down 25.46 percent from the same month in 2008 — falling from $513,584 to $382,813. The $383,013 collected this past February is still down 25.41 percent from the same month in 2008.

Nevertheless, the relatively flat February numbers did indicate a reversal of an 11-month trend when sales tax receipts showed a steady decline during that period (including double-digit declines in April, August and September of last year and in January of this year). In March of 2009, sales tax receipts showed a slight increase from the same month the previous year — .19 percent.

Interestingly enough, Green reported that March 2009 was the only month last year in which lodger’s tax receipts were down from the previous year.

While sales tax receipts for March will not be reported until the middle of next month and so premature to correlate those numbers with an increase in lodger’s tax receipts, preliminary reports suggest that March may have been a good month for local merchants.

Discussions between SUN staff and Pagosa Springs Town Manager David Mitchem indicate merchants were, by and large, sanguine regarding the increased visitor traffic during March, Mitchem said, “Anecdotally, I’m hearing several business owners say they had a rather good month.”

However, it would have to have been an exceptional month along the lines exhibited in the increased lodger’s tax receipts. Year-to-date numbers have shown a consistent decline in sales tax receipts since January 2009 and March receipts would need to show an almost 14-percent increase over the same month last year in order to reverse the current year-to-date decline.

Nevertheless, the increased lodger’s tax receipts report is a shred of good news in a climate where bad news prevails. In a little over two weeks it will be known if the good news gets better or if increased lodger’s tax receipts remain an anomaly, a glimmer of light in an otherwise dark time.

jim@pagosasun.com