Strong consumer spending continued to buoy Colorado Springs sales tax collections last month.
In March, revenues from the city’s general fund sales tax totaled $11.9 million, a 3.9 percent increase over the same month last year, according to a Colorado Springs Finance Department report. March revenues reflected spending that took place in February; sales tax collections now have increased for 15 consecutive months on a year-over-year basis.
The report showed several retail industry sectors — such as auto dealers and furniture, appliance and electronic stores — saw solid, year-over-year revenue gains. That indicates consumers feel confident and are spending their discretionary incomes, said Tatiana Bailey, director of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Economic Forum.
“We continue to see these pretty robust numbers, and to me that just signals that people in Colorado Springs are still feeling pretty confident about their income levels, their jobs, our local economy,” Bailey said. “They’re certainly not going elsewhere to shop and to eat out. They’re staying in our own community. These are all positive things.”
And local businesses benefit as a result, she added.
Colorado Springs levies a 2 percent sales tax on nonfood and prescription drug purchases. The performance of the tax is a key measure of the health of the local economy and is tracked closely by economists and business people.
But the sales tax also is key for the operation of Springs government because it generates more than half of the revenue used by the city to fund general services such as parks, roads and public safety.
The 2 percent sales tax isn’t the only levy paid by local consumers when they make purchases. Special sales taxes also are collected to fund road repairs, public safety and trails, open space and parks. A use tax also is collected on equipment and machinery that’s purchased outside the Springs for use inside the city.
Highlights of the March report include:
• Of retail categories that saw year-over year gains in revenues, grocery stores were up 31.3 percent; business services rose 27 percent; auto repair and leases increased 9.1 percent; furniture, appliance and electronic stores climbed 7.7 percent; restaurants and clothing stores each jumped 7.2 percent; auto dealers were up 5.4 percent; and building materials increased 5.2 percent.
• Among retail categories that saw year-over-year revenue declines, commercial machines fell 30.7 percent; medical marijuana sales decreased 10.8 percent; and department and discount stores dropped 8.1 percent.
• The city’s lodging and auto rental tax — collected on hotel stays and vehicle rentals and an indication of tourism activity — rose 9.4 percent in March.
• Collections on the city’s road repair sales tax rose a slight 0.7 percent.