Winter Park 2014 sales tax collections set record | SkyHiNews.com

Winter Park 2014 sales tax collections set record

Hank Shell
hshell@skyhidailynews.com

Sales, lodging and accommodations tax revenues for 2014 seem to suggest that an economic recovery has occurred in parts of the Fraser Valley.

The Town of Winter Park had its biggest tax revenue year on record, topping its next highest year, 2007, by 1 percent.

Winter Park set tax collection records in July, August and December, finishing the year with more than $4.5 million in tax collections, up 10 percent from last year.

"Everything was up so people seem to be happy," said Catherine Ross, executive director of the Winter Park & Fraser Chamber of Commerce. "They had a good year, and we did have a good Christmas season this year."

“We had a good year last year, and a good year prior. I anticipate that to be the same for 2015 and 2016.”Nat HavensFinance director, Town of Fraser

Total tax collections from downtown Winter Park were up 12 percent from 2013.

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Gains in tax revenues were also up in the Old Town and Winter Park Resort areas, according to town data.

Collections in that area set records in March, June, July, August, September, November and December.

Total collections from the Old Town and Winter Park Resort areas totaled more than $1.9 million in 2014, up 11 percent from 2013.

Regional trend

The data from Winter Park seems to be part of a larger trend of economic recovery among ski resorts across the West.

DestiMetrics, a Denver-based company that tracks lodging occupancy and revenues for 19 mountain resorts including Winter Park, believes revenues for participating resorts this year could exceed the record set during the 2007-2008 season by 4.6 percent, according to a press release.

As of Jan. 31, occupancy at Rocky Mountain resorts had increased 8.7 percent from the same time last year, according to the press release.

The news comes as a welcome relief after an unusually warm and dry January had many business owners holding their breath.

"I think getting the recent snow is keeping everybody motivated," she said. "I think we all got a little bit nervous there for a minute."

Ross added that forecasting data she had seen was also pointing toward a strong rest of the season.

Tom Foley, DestiMetrics' operations director, stated in the press release that, "If the weather patterns continue delivering steady doses of snow on a regular basis, we're confident this upward trajectory in mountain bookings will continue and deliver an overall all-time record for revenue in the 2014-15 season."

The Town of Winter Park's finance director did not return multiple requests for comment.

Fraser has strong year

Last year was also a boon for the Town of Fraser, which had its second best sales tax collection year on record, finishing 5.05 percent above 2013.

Collections were around $70,000 shy of 2008, the town's biggest sales tax year.

"I think it was a decent ending to the year," said Nat Havens, the town's finance manager. "I would have like to have seen a little more, but I'm happy with the 5.05, and I'm looking forward to bigger things this year."

Fraser did suffer due to a shortage in lodging, Havens said.

The Holiday Inn Express & Suites at the site of the former Pinnacle Lodge was closed for around six months, and the Rocky Mountain Chalet was converted into employee housing for Devil's Thumb Ranch.

But, those factors didn't seem to slow Fraser down too much.

"I'm going to kind of wrap Winter Park in there as well, and I think that there were a lot of people visiting our community and feeling more comfortable and spending money in both the retail outlets and restaurants," Havens said.

Though Fraser is "still struggling financially," Havens said an increase in building could further sustain the upward economic trend in the town.

"We had a good year last year, and a good year prior," Havens said. "I anticipate that to be the same for 2015 and 2016. That will help us to build up reserves again and fund future projects."

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