Rifle’s first quarter sales tax numbers up slightly
Editor’s note: The Citizen Telegram has produced regular stories regarding the City of Rifle’s monthly sales tax reports as a way of portraying the condition of the city’s economy. To continue to present the information, Rifle Finance Director Charles Kelty will answer several basic questions in writing and his answers will be presented in their entirety.
In his written report to the City Council, Kelty said total sales, use and lodging tax revenues for the three months ending March 31 was slightly more than $2 million, a 5 percent increase from the previous year’s $1.9 million.
Sales tax revenues were $1.8 million and 1 percent more than the previous year’s $1.7 million. Building and motor vehicle use tax revenues were more than $227,000 and 47 percent higher than the previous year’s $155,000.
Lodging tax revenues were $20,900 and 3 percent lower than the previous year’s $21,600.
1) How would you characterize this month’s revenues? Can you identify any factors that led to this outcome?
Kelty: The City of Rifle’s overall March sales taxes were 3 percent higher than March 2013 and 1 percent higher than the first quarter of 2013. I was very pleased to see the increased revenues, especially since February saw a slight reduction in revenues. The city saw increases in car parts and sales (29 percent), motels (14 percent), leasing (39 percent) and utilities (14 percent). Hardware and oil and gas are still struggling with decreases of 36 percent and 17 percent, respectively. Food and general retail were slightly higher with a 3 percent increase in each category.
The oil and gas industry is still struggling on the Western Slope. I believe the downturn in this industry has certainly impacted the city’s tax collections. At this point, unfortunately, it is difficult to predict when that industry will rebound.
2) Did any categories surprise you? If so, explain.
Kelty: I am a little surprised with hardware sales experiencing a 36 percent decrease for the month and 26 percent decrease year-to-date. It’s hard to see why hardware sales are down this year. I suspect customers might be holding back on doing discretionary repairs, since April was IRS tax day and they may have been saving up for their tax payments.
3) Where does this leave the city in terms of revenue received vs. budgeted? Where do expenses stand (include a few numbers)?
Kelty: Overall, the city’s general fund collected total revenues of close to $1.7 million, which is approximately 1 percent behind budget. Expenditures are approximately 17 percent higher than budget as of March 31. However, there were several annual fees paid in the first quarter, i.e. insurance, maintenance contracts, etc. that distorts this percentage. I anticipate that towards the middle of the year, the expenditures will fall back into line with budgeted projections.
4) Any thoughts on next month? How’s your crystal ball?
Kelty: April sales taxes are still coming in, so it is difficult to say at this point how April numbers will end up. However, the City Market gas station opened towards the end of April. Overnight, gasoline prices decreased around 20-25 cents per gallon. It is possible having lower gasoline prices may encourage citizens to shop locally more often. I would also anticipate drawing some business from Glenwood Springs because of the lower gas prices. Only time will tell if my assumption is accurate.
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Rifle City Manager Scott Hahn plans to transition out of his position over the next several months, according to a city of Rifle news release.