City basks in summer spending

Sales tax data show increase in retail sales

The latest sales tax data from Cortez shows increased economic activity compared with last year.

June was a particularly good month for retail sales in Cortez, with the city seeing a boost in sales tax collections to $927,000, from $868,000, an increase of about 6.8 percent, compared with the same time last year.

The city is also having a good year overall, with sales tax collections increasing to $4.6 million, from $4.4 million last year, for an increase of about 3.79 percent.

“If we can sustain it, it will be fantastic,” said City Manager Shane Hale.

Business owners saw sales tax refunds this spring from a local economic incentive program and lodgers taxes show increased tourist activity, but it is unknown how much these circumstances contributed.

“There are always a thousand little factors that go into your local economy,” Hale said.

The city has been trying to stimulate economic growth through a sales tax incentives approved by the city council in 2012 and implemented in 2013. Any business that saw a sales taxes increase received a 10 percent rebate on the increased amount.

So if an establishment paid $1,000 in sales taxes during 2012 and $1,030 in 2013, the business would receive 10 percent of the $30, according to the city resolution.

The idea behind the program was to partner with business owners that are out there really working hard, Hale said.

The program was a bit more successful than projected when the payments came due.

The city refunded about $38,000 to 132 business that saw increased sales. This was about $8,000 more than the city expected.

“I was happy to be over budget,” Hale said.

The program is based on the financial growth of business and doesn’t put pressure on the city’s coffers.

It is also particularly friendly to new businesses that are refunded 10 percent of the total they pay in taxes in their first year.

The program will be in place through 2015, at which point the city will address the question: “Is this a program that really moved the needle?” Hale said.

Right now, he said, it’s too soon to tell.