Friday Harbor needs a centennial celebration every month; July set a sales tax record, other months lagging

Friday Harbor
Friday Harbor's Centennial Fourth of July gave a much-needed boost to the town's economy. Overall, the month was the most financially successful ever. But the rest of the year is still lagging in sales and lodging tax receipts.
— image credit: File photo / Richard Walker

UPDATE:Town Treasurer Wendy Picinich submitted this e-mail today: The July sales taxes collected and received by the Town in September included a one-time sale that generated $61,252.04 in sales tax. The state Department of Revenue says it was on the importation of two boats.

If only every other month this year had been like July.

Friday Harbor has received $147,012.78 as its portion of sales tax revenue generated in town that month — the best month in town history.

All other months this year, not so good.

The town is budgeted to break the $900,000 mark by the end of the year — about $100,000 less than last year and $200,000 less than two years ago.

That shortfall has wreaked havoc on the town budget. Sales tax goes into the town's Current Fund, which — with property tax, leasehold tax and fees — pays for community development, general government, parks, public safety and streets.

The Town Council is anticipating 2010 will not be much better and has budgeted accordingly, with cuts in some programs and services, among them street improvements.

In addition, town employees have offered through their union to take nine unpaid furlough days in 2010.

In 2010, the town will get a boost from sales tax — as well as permit fees — generated from construction of 14 single-family homes in the Buck-Boreen property annexed this year near the former Friday Harbor Sand & Gravel site.

The town receives its portion of sales tax from the state two months after it's generated. Therefore, July's revenues were received in September. The year-end totals will reflect revenue generated in November to October.

July's strength may be a reflection of the Centennial Fourth of July festivities. But the Big Mo failed to carry over into August, the month of the San Juan County Fair.

From January to October, the town has received $733,767.43 as its share of sales tax revenue. That's better than 2004, but not the ensuing years. Last year to date, the town had received $843,108.08.

So far, the strongest revenue-generating month besides July was December — at $89,338.50, the third-best December ever.

Lodging tax is also down. The town has taken in $89,743.14 in 2 percent lodging tax collected to support tourism-related facilities, such as public restrooms. It received the same amount from the second 2 percent tax collected to support tourism promotion.

Last year to date, the town received $104,350.57 from each tax. The town finished last year with $137,146.84 last year from each tax.

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