Snowmass Village sales tax picture exceeding forecast

by Chad Abraham, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Snowmass Village’s sales tax revenue in 2012 exceeded the town’s forecast, fueled in part by an improved lodging picture that led to a 6 percent rise over the total collected in 2011.
Mayor Bill Boineau said last week that he was cautiously optimistic after the town reported it had collected nearly $1.4 million in sales tax, or about $200,000 more compared to the previous year. Snowmass Village in 2011 had predicted a 4.3 percent increase for 2012.
“I think we’re doing really well,” Boineau said. “We’ve got a lot of new things with the Westin coming on line. But I don’t think anyone’s going to say we’re back. It’s going to take a while.”
He said he was especially impressed that sales tax from the lodging sector increased despite the former Silvertree and Wildwood hotels being shuttered for nearly eight months. The hotels were remodeled, and reopened in the fall with the Silvertree now called the Westin Snowmass Resort.
Sales tax from lodging overall in the village was up nearly 8 percent over 2011, including jumps in January and February of 20 and 25 percent, respectively. The village’s lodges also saw slight increases in June, July and August.
Town Manager Russ Forrest said officials were pleased with the result, given that they, like their Aspen counterparts, were holding their breath after the tough opening to December. Aspen’s sales taxes in 2012 rose 5 percent over 2011.
“We were, like Aspen, very much holding our breath for the month of December,” he said. “The first three weeks were weak, and the last week was wonderful.
“We’re pleased with where we ended up.”
Other sales tax sectors also increased, with restaurants up 3.3 percent, sports equipment/clothing up 6.5 percent and food/drug/liquor store sales rising about 2 percent. Special events (down about 4 percent) and utilities (3 percent) were the only areas to lose ground.
For 2013, the town budgeted a 4 percent increase over the 2012 revised budget, said Marianne Rakowski, town finance director. But because 2012 sales taxes came in higher than predicted, the 2013 town sales tax budget is actually forecast to be only 2.36 percent higher than 2012.
The numbers have let Boineau relax a bit, he said: “I’m not breathing as nervously as I was last year.”