Towns and counties in the Roaring Fork Valley have wildly different forecasts on how their tourism-oriented economies will fare in 2022.
The outlooks range from bullish by Snowmass Village, Basalt, Carbondale, and Aspen to bearish by Pitkin County and somewhere in between for Eagle County, Glenwood Springs, and New Castle, according to a summary by the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.
RFTA relies heavily on sales tax revenues, so it collects preliminary estimates in October regarding the next year’s sales taxes from each of its eight-member jurisdictions.
“The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic upon the economy and uncertainty on the duration of its impacts are evidenced by the information received,” RFTA staff members wrote in a budget summary for the board of directors. “As a result, the 2022 sales tax forecast is a 1% reduction compared to the 2021 forecast.”
Snowmass Village was most optimistic. The town estimates its sales tax revenues will rise 6.01% in 2022 over 2021. Basalt and Carbondale are expecting a 5% increase while Aspen is forecasting a 4.3% boost over 2021.
New Castle is anticipating a 3% increase in sales tax revenues in 2022. Glenwood Springs and Eagle County are playing it safe and projecting flat revenues.
Pitkin County was the only local government anticipating lower sales in 2022. It is forecasting a 4.2% decrease.
The cumulative sales tax revenues didn’t fall because of the pandemic, but there was no growth between 2019 and 2020. It is expected that 2021 sales tax collections for the region will end up about $5 million higher than in 2020 to an estimated $32 million.
Sales and use taxes are the single biggest chunk of revenue for RFTA at 48%. Property taxes supply about 19% of revenues. RFTA is anticipating a healthy boost from property tax revenues in 2022 thanks to rapidly escalating property values in the region.
“Staff corresponded with the assessors in Pitkin, Eagle, and Garfield Counties and obtained assessed valuations,” the RFTA staff memo to the board of directors said. “As a result, the property tax revenue estimate is increased 8.5% as compared to the 2021 budget.”
RFTA expects to reap about $11.89 million in property tax revenues.
The bus agency also expects to collect more through its service contracts. Aspen Skiing Co. pays for the free skier shuttles in the upper valley. The city of Aspen is also a major service contract for free buses within the town. Revenues from service contracts are expected to be just shy of $14.5 million in 2022. That is an increase of 15% over 2021.
RFTA’s board of directors approved a $78 million budget on Thursday. That is down 47% from 2021 because of a drastic decline in capital improvement projects. The capital improvements budget will be $18.3 million, down 81%.
The operating budget is $53.6 million, up 11%. The debt service will be $6.1 million in 2022, up 10%.