It could have been much worse


While the numbers are not overwhelming, the sales tax report for June is positive, soothing justifiable fears concerning how summer business in Pagosa Country would begin.

Business owners geared up for a promising summer as June approached. Things had been on the upswing, slowly but surely. Many local economic indicators, including real estate sales, gave hope.

Then, fire.

Or, rather, fires.

It began with the West Fork blaze and the Windy Pass Fire. The Papoose Fire started and we had a “complex.” Firefighters trooped to the region, and did an incredible job preventing loss of structures, keeping a massive complex from destroying entire communities.

While one kind of loss was averted, another loomed.

News of the fires spread quickly to all parts of the nation: Pagosa Country was ablaze — pyrocumulus clouds rolled high in the sky for television cameras to capture, a hundred thousand-plus acres were involved. Smoke filled the air and on a couple days semi-darkness fell on Pagosa Springs, ash drifting in the air. People watched all this from afar — people who might, ordinarily, travel here. The fear that they would stay away was reasonable.

Worse yet, the West Fork Fire closed U.S. 160 over Wolf Creek Pass — one of the primary routes into Pagosa Country used by visitors. For many accustomed to vacationing here, the closure meant a significant detour and, again, the prospects seemed ominous.

Now, we have the June sales tax figures in hand and we can see what the fires wrought in terms of an overall impact on our business community.

It is nowhere as dire as many of us suspected it would be. Obviously, many folks shrugged off the news and came to Pagosa Country. While some establishments, no doubt, took a hit, people arrived and spent money, kept the commercial lifeblood flowing.

The June 2013 sales tax revenue figure of $637,423.86 was an increase of only $62.43 or .01 percent over June 2012 … but it was an increase. Measured against what we thought the figure would be once the fires began, it is extremely encouraging. It shows that the tourism business is recovering. Taking a look at the past several years, the trend, despite slight ups and downs, is for the better. Sales tax revenue for June 2012 was $637,361 and for 2011 it was $641,333, which makes the average $639,347 for the same period over the last two years.

As Ed Fincher reports in his Page 1 sales tax story, so far this year May and June have been the only two months to see any decline in sales tax revenues when compared to the average for the previous two years. Sales tax revenue for January 2013 was $477,510, an increase of $51,093.5 or 12 percent over the previous two-year average; for February it was $460,838, an increase of $58,621.5 or 14.6 percent, and for March it was $532,221, an increase of $58,712 or 12.4 percent.

Year-to-date revenue was up by 5.18 percent when compared to last year.

In other good news, June lodging tax revenues increased 8.99 percent over 2012. Some of the additional tax may have been paid by firefighters — but fire personnel were given an opt-out on lodger’s tax. We think the June tax figures are due in part to the ongoing work by the Town Tourism Committee to promote tourism to the area. Several years’ effort and expenses are paying off.

We believe the June statistics show not only that people are still finding their way here, but that locals are spending more and many businesses are doing more to satisfy customers.

Now, for snow — early and deep.   Karl Isberg