Mon09012014

Business & Real Estate

Los Altos' most recent sales-tax report 'concerning'

According to recent data highlighting one indicator of the city’s economic health, Los Altos experienced an approximately 3 percent uptick in sales-tax revenue in the second quarter of 2011 over last year. But city officials aren’t breaking out the party hats and confetti just yet.


While the growth, measured from April to June, did result in an additional $17,000 in city coffers over the previous year’s second quarter, it paled in comparison to the 11 percent increase at the start of 2011, according to a city consultant’s report.

“We hope to be more positive,” said Russ Morreale, finance director for the city of Los Altos. The most recent data, released months after the quarters, are “somewhat concerning when considering an 11 percent increase in quarter one … but it’s still up.”

According to the report, high prices at the pump have made gas stations a regular cash cow for the city, registering a 31 percent uptick over the previous year’s second quarter. Restaurants and hotels also experienced growth in the area of 24 percent, attributable to beer and wine sales.

Restaurant liquor sales, meanwhile, fell 11 percent. Sales of electrical equipment in Los Altos were down nearly 60 percent, the report notes, while family apparel decreased 13 percent.

Officials have delayed signaling any formal trends since the double-digit declines of 2008, but glimpses of sustained growth have been brighter lately. Morreale said the city remains “cautiously optimistic.”

“The numbers reflect the unsettled state of economic affairs,” City Manager Doug Schmitz wrote in an email. “The federal government is forecasting 2012 growth at 2 to 2.5 percent. The state budget is out of balance by $1 billion. There is speculation about the future of the euro. In these difficult times, any indication of growth is welcomed.”

Countywide, businesses averaged 15 percent more sales-tax revenue than in the second quarter of 2010. The number, outpacing Los Altos by approximately five times, makes Morreale optimistic.

“We hope that if everyone is experiencing increases, we all benefit,” he said.

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