Public revenue growth is astounding

Wow. Business, and public sector business, is booming in Grand County.

And I don’t write that as if I was a chamber of commerce, all-growth-is-good sort of booster. I’m just pointing it out, really. Read on.

My quick look at Grand County’s sales tax and property tax figures, and related increases, in the last two years has created an eye-popping experience for me. And as they say in some sectors, as goes the public sector, so goes the private sector.

Public sector revenue continues to grow and grow, which may not be news to some but it’s worth seeing just some of the figures from the Grand County government side as contained in the most recent abstract (unaudited).

Let’s start with sales tax revenue to Grand County from its one percent tax on all retail sales in the county. In 2018 total retail sales in the county amounted to $557 million. In 2019 that number was $613 million. For 2020 there was a whopping $819 million in total retail sales in the county, and that was the year of the first COVID peak.

So, in two years, sales county wide increased by roughly 45 percent. That means the county’s income from sales taxes went from $5.5 million in 2018 to $8.1 million in 2020. Once again, on the conservative side, that’s an increase in sales tax revenue of 45 percent in two years.

I want to shout that out and put exclamation points after it, but, well, the numbers speak for themselves. That’s some amazing growth in sales.

These sorts of numbers are echoed by many people in the private sector here in the county, which is charged with the task of collecting that one percent sales tax.

Property tax valuations in the county tell a similar story although it’s not as drastic due to the nuances of valuating property such as lag time in assessments and other factors. Nonetheless, consider this: The county’s assessed valuation in 2018 was $663 million. That number has gone up to $809 million for 2021. The word is that it may go to a billion by next year.

Nobody, five years ago, would have predicted such a thing.

With all the building that’s going on due to the fire recovery and just normal new building activity, the total valuation on all new construction (new homes, remodels, etc) for single family home is likely to triple this year compared to last. Triple.

So, this is what I call “booming.”

And yet, we are paying a price, so to speak.

Since I’ve been mentioning county numbers here let’s consider this. The county’s road and bridge department alone is down 17 employees. Now, maybe, you know why that pothole on your road hasn’t been fixed recently. Overall, the county is down about 40 employees.

Once again, I want to put an exclamation point behind that last sentence, but I refrained.

These sorts of numbers about public sector employee shortages are echoed in other counties as well. Summit County is down something like 40 employees as well in county government jobs. It’s happening in other mountain counties as well.

As goes the public sector, well, so goes the private sector. We all know and have been complaining about employee shortages, clogged-more-than-usual roadways and empty shelves at our supermarkets. Business and tourism and construction are booming, but we are truly struggling to keep up.

Is this just a bubble that will burst in a year or two? I doubt it. I think we have several more years of this sort of activity because COVID, combined with natural population trends, has stirred a sleeping giant.

Grand County is only two or three hours away from the booming Front Range and now those urbanites and suburbanites really know it.

Hold on to your horses! (Finally, that exclamation point.)

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He offers free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at

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