MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – Mountain Village is buzzing with activity this summer. The weekly Summer Concert Series was a success and the town recently hosted the No Barriers Summit, a four-day event that brought hundreds of disabled athletes and adventurers from across the country to hotels, shops and restaurants. Thanks to events like these, the town is enjoying a 24 percent increase in revenues over last year, most notably in the lodging sector.
Mountain Village is close to posting its third consecutive record-setting summer season to date, according to Michael Martelon, president and CEO of the Telluride Tourism Board. But the trend isn’t limited to the summer; strong sales tax revenues have carried through to the winter months. Fourteen of the last 15 months have shown year-over-year increases in sales tax revenue.
March, Martelon added, was the best month of 2013 in terms of year-over-year sales tax revenues, and the best March in Mountain Village’s history.
Martelon attributes the growth in commercial activity to strong hotel reservations for Mountainfilm, Ride the Rockies and the Bluegrass Festival. Highly targeted, digital marketing campaigns contributed to the high sales figures as well, he added.
Kevin Swain, Mountain Village Finance Director, agrees with Martelon’s analysis, and said, “Lodging is up the most in terms of percentage. To me, that indicates an improving economy and one that is better than even a few years ago.
“We can look at these data all we want, but just by walking around here, you see that this summer is busier than it has been in a while.”
Swain said other sectors of the town’s economy are enjoying the increase in activity as well. “It’s been a really solid six months in every sector we measure,” he said. “Restaurants, utilities and retail, all are looking up. I do not think these revenues will sustain at these percentages, but the data indicate an upward trend.”
“Barring another recessionary economy, which comes around every decade or so, our hope in Mountain Village is that there is still room to grow,” Swain said, adding that the Mountain Village Town Council is already exploring ways to continue the growth.
The council brainstormed incentives to attract new businesses to Mountain Village at last week’s meeting, but adopted no specific course of action. The town has been exploring ways to diversify its revenue and become less reliant on property taxes since the local economy plunged during the Great Recession.
The increase in revenue, estimated at $325,000, is vital to the town’s economy, said Swain, given the recent years of budgetary retrenchment and dismal economic forecasts. Resort economies like Mountain Village have been hit especially hard since 2007, when the American housing market crashed and home prices plummeted, starving local governments of much-needed revenue.
Mountain Village responded to the drop by reducing staff, reducing pay and benefits and eliminating services.
Mountain Village’s property tax revenues peaked in 2011. They are projected to decrease through 2014 and are then expected to slowly begin recovering to pre-recession levels.
Telluride is not as reliant on property taxes as Mountain Village. Half of Telluride’s general fund comes from sales and use taxes, while only seven percent is funded by property taxes. Telluride, however, was deeply affected by the recession due to a sharp drop in Real Estate Transfer Tax revenue, and is still functioning under the austere fiscal policies of the Town Recession Plan.