Sales tax collections in Snowmass Village have risen every month but one this year compared to 2011, with the summer approaching revenue levels not seen since before the recession, figures released by the town on Friday show.
With September numbers about 2 percent higher than the same month last year, the town is about 6.3 percent ahead of 2011 so far.
Town Council last year had budgeted for a 4.3 percent increase in 2012, and the higher sales tax collections has “pleasantly surprised” officials, said town manager Russ Forrest.
The increases are even more remarkable considering that the old 260-room Silvertree Hotel has been closed since April as it is remodeled into the 258-room Westin Snowmass Resort. The 157-room Wildwood Hotel, which also was sold along with the Silvertree, has been closed since April as well.
Like the Westin Snowmass, the Wildwood is expected to reopen by Thanksgiving and offer 151 renovated rooms, said Joe Krabacher, an Aspen attorney who was involved in the $42 million deal for the hotels and the Snowmass Conference Center.
Lodging accounts for the majority of the town’s sales tax revenue, and together the Westin and Wildwood properties make up roughly a fifth of Snowmass Village’s hotel bed base. They also are a huge factor in luring group sales, Forrest said.
The town’s lodging sector “deserves a big round of applause,” he said. “They were able to accommodate [guests], and the conference center was also available at the beginning of June.”
July 2012 saw the lodging sector account for $24,836 in sales tax; that’s on par with the $25,868 that was collected in July 2008, before the recession hit in full force.
Overall revenues for June of this year ($49,866) actually topped, albeit slightly, those for the same month in 2008 ($48,990).
“It’s been an interesting summer,” Forrest said. “We had a relatively good year for groups and other lodging accommodation in town, and we got lucky with the weather, particularly toward the end of summer.”
The town and its marketing board have focused on ways to get the most bang for the tourism buck, Forrest said, citing the success of pairing the Snowmass wine and balloon festivals on the same weekend in September.
Snowmass Village’s recovery mirrors that of Aspen, which through September already has collected $8.5 million in sales tax. Dating back to 2006, that trails only 2008, when the city collected $9.2 million, and there are three months still to go.
Despite the upbeat trend in Snowmass Village, the Town Council has approved a budget for 2013 that anticipates a 4 percent sales tax increase.
“We attempt to be conservatively low with revenue projections,” Forrest said. “It’s been a nice surprise when we do better than that.”
For the year so far, lodging is up 9.7 percent over 2011; restaurants, the second-largest sales tax contributor, are up 1.6 percent; sports equipment sales are up 7.6 percent; food/drug/liquor stores are up 3.5 percent; and general retail is up 14 percent.
Among the town’s options for the extra funds are staff salaries and benefits, and one-time expenses like capital costs for buildings and equipment, Forrest said.