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0.53 growth for county sales tax in February

In contrast with positive national numbers for consumer spending — a 0.8 percent boost in February from the previous month — Archuleta County sales tax revenues showed relatively flat growth during that same month, up just 0.53 percent from the same month last year, according to a report released Tuesday by the Colorado Department of Revenue (CDR).

In fact, given that gasoline prices increased 4.9 percent nationwide in February, leading to an overall increase of 0.4 percent in the month’s Consumer Price Index, February’s sales tax collections could be interpreted as almost entirely flat after factoring in inflation.

Subtracting out the nation’s average rise in prices, February collections would be up just 0.13 percent from the same month last year.

Still, year-to date collections are up 3.53 percent in the county, indicating that local economy is showing some improvement.

Sales tax revenues for the county were up 6.45 percent in January compared to the same month last year and up 6.52 percent from average January collections for the past two years.

January’s increase in sales tax collections indicated a positive trend in local revenues that began just prior to the start of the second half of 2011 (in June), which showed a 7.38-percent increase in June-through-January collections. However, that growth curve inclined steeply when looking at September-through-January collections, showing an increase of 9.12 percent over the previous year.

Overall, 2011 was 6.84 percent better than 2010 in year-end sales tax collections.

However, Tuesday’s CDR report suggested a slowing in consumer spending in February, with the retail sector down 1.1 percent from the same month last year.

Manufacturing, the fastest growing sector in the local economy, was down 18.73 percent over the year.

Another factor contributing to February’s flat numbers could be the continued slide in natural gas prices, due largely to a glut on the market. Many residents in southern and western Archuleta County rely partly on incomes from natural gas leases and, with the precipitous drop in prices, have seen a related decrease in revenues.

Conversely, those prices mean lower energy bills for consumers. Nevertheless, those reduced fees (as well as mild weather during the month) apparently did not translate into increased spending with area merchants.

Whatever economic trend is taking place in Archuleta County will become clearer when local unemployment numbers are reported later this month, and the CDR reports March sales tax collections during the second week in May.

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