Nelson Harvey
Citizen Telegram Contributor
Rifle, CO Colorado

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November 28, 2012
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Latest sales tax numbers show lagging Rifle economy

The latest tax revenue numbers from the City of Rifle reflect an economic recovery that continues to slow as the year starts to draw to a close. Revenues through September were a little over $5.3 million, up just 0.2 percent compared to the same period in 2011.

The first quarter of 2012, by contrast, saw an 11 percent jump in tax revenues over 2011 levels, while the second quarter saw a five percent increase.

"The trend has continued," said Finance Director Charles Kelty. "At this point, we've had four months of straight declines."

The numbers highlight the lagging construction and lodging industries in Rifle: Building use tax revenues so far this year are down a whopping 62 percent over 2011, to almost $68,000, while lodging tax revenues are down 20 percent, at more than $81,000.

"It could be the lack of oil and gas activity, but frankly I think consumers are still concerned about the economy, and they're not spending like they used to," said Kelty.

He noted that he had not pinpointed the cause of continuing declines in revenue, and said that a brief look at October numbers suggests that revenues were down roughly 10 percent that month compared to the previous year.

Yet there were a few positive notes in the recent report: Motor vehicle use tax revenue, for example, is up 25 percent over this time last year to almost $371,000, suggesting that more people are buying and registering cars.

Revenue from bars and restaurants is up 5 percent to $495,000, while oil and gas tax revenue is up 9 percent, to $412,000.

Also, city water fund revenues were up sharply, thanks to a couple of factors, Kelty said.

A $25 million loan from the Colorado Water and Power Authority to pay for a new water treatment plant closed in August, and on Election Day, voters approved a three-quarter cent sales tax increase to help cover the interest on that loan.

As a result, water fund revenues grew to more than $27 million from their previous level of slightly more than $2.5 million. A large portion of those funds will be used up as construction begins on the water treatment plant, Kelty said. Groundbreaking is scheduled for March 2013.

On the revenue side, city spending was up 25 percent through the third quarter compared to last year, Kelty said, largely due to the costs of a multi-year federal grant paid for through the planning department.

That department has spent about $300,000 more so far this year than it did in the first three quarters of 2011, Kelty noted, but the city will recoup most of those funds through federal reimbursement in the fourth quarter of this year.

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The Post Independent Updated Nov 28, 2012 06:04PM Published Nov 28, 2012 06:03PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.