County declines sales tax relief for local businesses

The Grand County Board of County Commissioners
The Grand County Board of County Commissioners

by Marissa Lorenz
After brief discussion at the most recent meeting of the Grand County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), Commissioners declined to offer any sales tax relief for local business for the latter part of 2021.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a law into effect on December 7 that will allow certain restaurants, bars, and other food vendors to claim a deduction on their 2.9% State sales tax remittance for the months of November 2020 through February 2021. According to the Colorado Legislative Council, the permissible and permanently forgiven sales tax collections could be as high as $2,000 each month for qualifying businesses/ business sites.

The Town of Winter Park followed suit, putting together a plan that would allow local food and drink retailers to defer payment of their November and December sales tax collections (a 7% tax rate) until January of 2021.

County Finance Director
Curtis Lange noted that other local municipalities intend to collect sales tax, as usual, from all businesses. He reported that the Towns of Fraser and Kremmling implemented their own grant programs to support local businesses most impacted by the latest COVID-19 restrictions that forced bars and restaurants to close for indoor dining. The Town of Grand Lake plans to donate $50,000 to the Grand Foundation’s Small Business Assistance fund on January 1.

The Finance Director further explained that, while the County sales tax is 1.3% of sales, 0.3% of that is dedicated to the Open Lands, Rivers, and Trails fund, a taxpayer-approved initiative whose monies Lange did not think could be “rededicated” in any way.

He presented a report saying that sales tax remitted to Grand County by restaurants and bars accounted for only 5.61%-6.61% of all sales tax collected for the time period of July through October of 2020. The same report noted that sales tax was up over $600,000, year-to-date, over 2019.

After brief discussion, Commissioners determined to not provide any additional tax relief measures at the county level. They noted that they had already donated $230,000 to the Grand Foundation to be utilized for small business COVID-related economic relief in 2020. .
“After hearing the summary,” responded Commissioner Rich Cimino, “I think that the $200,000 we’ve given for business assistance plus the $30,000 for PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] is sufficient at this time. If we learn of any additional aid we can do, we’ll definitely consider that.”

Commissioners Merrit Linke and Kristen Manguso agreed with the statement.

Discussion concluded with an open question from Manguso about the number of restaurants remitting sales tax seeming to have declined between July (139) and October (116). Lange explained that the numbers had been reached by a manual count of line items on County sales tax reports for each of those months.

“I wonder if that says we’ve lost 24 businesses,” Manguso speculated.