The downward fall in sales tax revenue that began in the second quarter of last year continued in November in Rifle, with a 15 percent decline from a year earlier.
Finance Director Charles Kelty reported to City Council in its Jan. 16 meeting packet that sales and use tax revenue was close to $461,000, a 15 percent drop from November 2011's nearly $539,000.
"I'm disappointed," Kelty said. "I can't pinpoint any one reason, since most of the categories are down. So maybe it's just people are being careful with their spending, just like the rest of the nation."
The biggest drop came in the oil and gas category, which saw a 73 percent decline over November 2011. Other categories with double digit declines were car parts and sales, liquor stores, motels and utilities.
Only two categories showed increases - leasing/miscellaneous and hardware.
Lodging tax revenue was nearly $103,000, a 15.6 percent decrease from the previous year's $122,000. Kelty said a couple of establishments closed during the past year, meaning fewer rooms were available to provide revenue.
"And it could be that people just aren't traveling as much as they did," Kelty added. "That would also contribute to the drop in sales tax."
Kelty said revenue from visiting hunters during November is scattered throughout the categories, so it's hard to judge how many hunters may have visited the city and area.
Through the end of November, total sales, use, and lodging tax revenues were close to $6.4 million, a 1.3 percent decrease from 2011's slightly more than $6.4 million.
Total sales tax revenues were $5.7 million, a 0.8 percent decrease from 2011's nearly $5.8 million. Building and motor vehicle use tax revenues were $531,000, a 3.2 percent decrease from $549,000 in November 2011.
General fund revenues were $7.9 million, compared to the prior year's more than $7.9 million and 0.2 percent lower.
While revenues are slightly lower, general fund expenditures were $7.7 million, compared to the prior year's just over $7.7 million, a difference of $15,250, or 0.2 percent higher.
"Overall, our revenues are mostly status quo," Kelty summed up. "But this is the fifth month in a row that we've seen a reduction in sales tax revenue. We have good reserves on hand, and we've budgeted very conservatively."
Kelty also noted one potential positive economic sign for Rifle sales tax: The city's Rifle Bucks holiday sales promotion program generated nearly $52,000 in reimbursements to the city from more than 30 local businesses.
Of the approximately 3,000 Rifle Bucks coupons distributed in December, about 87 percent were used at area businesses and returned to the city for reimbursement, according to a city accounting. Revenue the program produced will be shown in December's sales tax figures, which Kelty said he expected to have on hand in a few weeks.
"That 87 percent reimbursement rate is better than last year, and we have budgeted for it again in 2013," Kelty added.