Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ketchum LOT increase continues

Tax receipts up for 6th straight month

Express Staff Writer

In a good sign for the local economy, Ketchum local-option tax receipts posted gains for the sixth straight month.

LOT figures reported to the city in March, representing transactions in February, show a 4.51 percent, or $6,824, increase over the same period last year.

So far this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, LOT receipts are up 4.77 percent in year-to-date comparisons.

The city collects a 2 percent sales tax on lodging and by-the-glass liquor sales, and a 1 percent tax on retail sales and building materials. The tax is paid by purchasers, collected by businesses, then passed on to the city.

The tax is sometimes referred to as the "tourist tax" because it is imposed on activities that visitors frequently partake in. Because tourism is a large part of the local economy, many people look to LOT figures to gauge its health.

One category highly impacted by tourists, however, is still struggling. Room receipt figures increased by 1 percent, or $67, in March's report, but the category is down more than 15 percent so far this fiscal year.

Condominium rental receipts posted a 15.16 percent, or $996, increase. That category is up 9.42 percent so far in fiscal-year totals.

Retail is faring well, according to LOT numbers. That category reported an 8.93 percent, or $9,377, increase in March. In year-to-date figures, retail is up nearly 8 percent.

"The retail section is probably the most encouraging," said City Administrator Gary Marks. "You have to feel all right about that. But that's not to say there aren't businesses out there struggling."

Liquor receipts gained just over 1 percent in the March report, or $225. The category is up 2.66 percent for the fiscal year.

Building materials receipts plummeted, dropping 31 percent, or $3,841. That category has seen wild fluctuations this fiscal year, and is down 6.15 percent in fiscal-year totals.

"It's just bouncing all over the place," Marks said.

The fluctuations may be due to the fact that the recession thinned the ranks of contractors, he said.

"One reported activity, or lack of activity, seems to have a greater impact on the whole," he said.

Marks said a slow upward climb in the local economy started before this fiscal year began.

"It crept out of the basement last year," he said.

That uptick and recent LOT reports are encouraging, he said.

"Are we into a gangbusters recovery? I don't think so," he said. "We're still trying to catch our breath. It's still a challenging economy out there. [But] the fact that the numbers are up nearly 5 percent, that's encouraging."

Rebecca Meany:

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