Behind the numbers: Rifle sales tax lags |

Behind the numbers: Rifle sales tax lags

Nelson Harvey
Citizen Telegram Contributor

At first glace, the latest numbers show a brightening picture for sales tax revenues in Rifle: overall, tax receipts are up eight percent for the first four months of this year compared to 2012, growing from $2.3 million last year to just over $2.5 million.

But, if you discount the impact of the 3/4 cent sales tax increase passed last year to fund the new water treatment plant, revenues are actually down 11 percent through April, according to Rifle Finance Director Charles Kelty.

“That is a little bit of a concern, I wasn’t expecting that,” he said. “I feel like some individuals have been a bit too optimistic about these numbers.”

The numbers continue to reflect a relatively flat economy in Rifle, although there are some bright spots: hardware is up 40 percent so far this year, while food is up 24 percent and bar and restaurant tax revenue is up 10 percent.

The lodging sector continues to struggle, following a hotel building spree during the natural gas boom that peaked in 2008. Many of the rooms built during that period now sit empty for much of the year, and while lodging revenues are up one percent for the year so far, they saw double digit declines toward the end of 2012.

“The hotels were generally at capacity for a long time, and we have had to completely refocus for tourism to get people into town,” said Frank Ladd, president and CEO of the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce.

Tax revenue from oil and gas activity also remains relatively weak: it fell to about $150,000 in the first four months of 2013, compared to more than $250,00 during the same period of 2011, a drop of 41 percent.

The gas company WPX announced earlier this month it would bring two more drilling rigs to the Piceance Basin in 2013 than initially planned, but it’s tough to predict how much the company will spend locally as a result, Kelty said.

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