Year in review: Rifle’s sales tax revenue downward trend may start to ease
It took nine months, but 2013 might have finally shown just a small sign the Rifle economy might have a little life.
After more than a year of monthly declines in sales and use tax revenue – discounting the 3/4 cent water treatment plant sales tax hike – there was a hopeful sign in the September sales and use tax report for the City of Rifle.
“We saw a small increase in the government funds,” said Finance Director Charles Kelty. “It was just one percent, but that’s the first month we’ve seen any kind of increase in what seems like ages.”
The downward trend for the city’s main revenue generator started to fall, along with economic indicators in most of the world, in 2007 with the start of the Great Recession, which included a sharp drop in activity by the area natural gas industry, the main employer in the region.
Businesses started to cut hours or even lay off workers, while out-of-state gas industry workers who had filled area rental properties moved on to other areas. Without the population base to sustain them, businesses closed their doors, further driving down the city’s sales tax revenues.
During the year, business closures included some long-surviving establishments, such as the Rusty Canon Motel, Sammy’s on Park Avenue and the Sports Corner bar (which plans to reopen under new owners and a new name on New Year’s Eve).
That led the city to dip into its reserve fund to the tune of millions of dollars, although city officials said during the 2014 budget process that that fund is still very healthy, compared to other municipalities.
Some new small businesses, including the Twisted Studios Boutique, Great Clips of Rifle, Affordable Engine and Transmission, 625-Water, Bolt Action Fabrics, True West Pet Care, Mulligan’s at Rifle Creek restaurant and Jay’s steakhouse, welcomed Rifle customers for the first time.
Whether those businesses, as well as others that plan to open (such as a downtown Italian restaurant), continue to boost city sales tax revenue is something city officials will closely watch in 2014.
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