Lodging tax revenue up, sales tax revenue down in Friday Harbor so far this year

Friday Harbor's town treasury has received $66,244.46 in lodging tax revenue so far this year, $8,605 more than the previous year, according to a report by Town Treasurer Wendy Picinich.

That money represents revenue from two 2 percent lodging taxes collected — one for lodging facilities like public restrooms, the other for tourism promotion. Each 2 percent tax generated $33,122.23.

It's the second-best year in lodging tax revenue since 2004. Sales tax revenue, not so much.

The town received $69,344.43 as its share of sales tax revenue generated in May, up from $61,959.74 in May 2009. In March, the town received $61,504.38, up slightly over the $60,437.54 generated the same month in 2009. But all other months are lagging.

To date, the town has received $393,187.64 in sales tax revenue, down from $430,762.15 during the same period in 2009, $515,773.39 in 2008, $527,049.11 in 2007, $493,412.12 in 2006, $481,448.26 in 2005, and $430,235.45 in 2004.

The yearly decline 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 anticipated 2010 would not be much better than 2009 and budgeted accordingly, with cuts in some programs and services, among them street improvements.

In addition, town employees are taking nine unpaid furlough days in 2010.

The town's sales tax picture could improve thanks to new construction. Construction is under way on 14 single-family homes in the Buck-Boreen property annexed in 2009 near the former Friday Harbor Sand & Gravel site.

And the town receives its share of lodging and sales tax revenues two months after they are reported. So, we'll know later this month the success of summer tourism promotions when tax figures are announced for June.

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