Parker budget cuts loom, but how deep?

Declining sales tax revenues due to COVID-19 forcing reductions

Nick Puckett
npuckett@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/28/20

Parker town officials have difficult decisions to make in the coming weeks as they hash out a proposal amending the 2020 operating budget in the wake of Colorado's month-long stay-at-home order. …

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Parker budget cuts loom, but how deep?

Declining sales tax revenues due to COVID-19 forcing reductions

Posted

Parker town officials have difficult decisions to make in the coming weeks as they hash out a proposal amending the 2020 operating budget in the wake of Colorado's month-long stay-at-home order.

Parker officials declined to release their projections on March revenue and did not say whether any employees will be furloughed, as has happened in other metro-Denver cities.

Declining sales tax revenues due to COVID-19 have made town budget reductions necessary, Elise Penington, communication director for the Town of Parker, said in an April 22 email. Town council will be considering and discussing budget reductions at a future meeting, Penington said. Officials expect the budget changes to take place in late May.

More specifics will be released after the May 4 town council meeting, Penington said.

The Parker Area Chamber of Commerce tracks its own data regarding business closures in the town. Executive Director Kara Massa said the chamber's figures were less reliable than the town's numbers would be and declined to release those.

The chamber hosts the annual Parker Days Festival every June. The festival draws thousands of people from throughout the Denver area and has an economic impact on the town of more than $1.5 million. The festival was canceled April 27. 

Parker, like all Colorado municipalities, relies on sales tax revenue to fuel its general fund. The general fund pays for things like the police department, public works, town administration and parks/open space, among many other critical functions.

And like most of its neighbors, Parker has seen a flattening in the rate of sales tax revenue growth, which has been cause for some belt-tightening here and there. The coming May budget proposal is likely to be more significant.

Parker's 2020 adopted budget projects a year-end revenue of $53.6 million. About 70% of that is expected to come from sales tax revenue.

Less official, more anecdotal looks at Parker's economy clearly indicate business is down. It's not exactly clear by how much.

Restaurants, breweries, coffee shops and bars can't provide dine-in service until at least April 30 and will likely be affected by lingering concerns about social distancing long after that. Pam Briere, owner of West Main Taproom and Grill, a newly opened restaurant in downtown Parker, said business has dropped 80%.

As of the final quarter of last year, Parker had 4.4 million square feet of operating retail space, most of which closed due to statewide orders to close nonessential businesses. The town welcomed the Laszlo Hotel, excited for the economic activity it would spur in the town. Though the restaurants within the hotel remain operational, the hotel has had to close through the shutdown.

The Parker Arts, Culture and Events Center had to cancel or postpone its shows that tend to draw out-of-towners to spend money in Parker.

The City of Lone Tree, even more reliant on sales tax revenue than Parker, announced it expected a total revenue hit of about 9% of its bottom line for the year. Lone Tree has relies on different economic drivers like the Park Meadows shopping mall and bustling daytime activity, whereas Parker has relied on local business support and activity from large events or attractions.

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