Cash crash eased at years end
Towns, cities and states across the country have been hit particularly hard by a national economy that remains about as vibrant as a stagnant pond. In Avon, the slump threatens bus routes, the frequency of snow-plowing and other services that make mountain life more convenient.
The West Beaver Creek Lodge’s Bob Borg, also president of the small Avon Business Association, says while business was brisk in January, visitors in November and December spent about the same amount of money as they did in 2001, the winter after Sept. 11.
“We might have been expecting the worst, but things didn’t improve and it didn’t get worse,” Borg says.
Though sales tax revenues came in about $25,000 higher than expected, Avon Town Manager Larry Brooks says, most of the savings came from town employees.
“Things are looking a little better – probably a result of good, early snow,” Brooks says. “It’s always good to fiscally stronger than you thought you were going to be – these have been rough times.”
Brooks and his financial staff were projecting a 5 percent drop in sales-tax revenues for 2002, but it now appears to have only decreased by 4.6 percent. Sales-tax revenues came in $25,000 higher than predicted, Brooks says.–
But the big savings came from the heads of the town’s various departments slashing spending by $441,000.No employees have been laid-off, but vacant positions have been left empty, Brooks says.
The town still will fall about $200,000 short when the books are closed on 2002, Brooks says.
To avoid another deficit, the town struggled to balance spending for 2003. A major cut came when the Town Council decided not to give town employees any raises this year.
“I think the public should know how seriously the town takes the current economic climate when it comes to spending,” Town Councilman Mike Brown says.
The frequency of snow-plowing has been reduced, and this may be the last winter Avon runs a free ski bus up from the town’s lodges to Beaver Creek.
“We’re no different than anybody else,” Brook says. “We still don’t know what future holds.”
Borg says business this January was stronger than the same month in 2002. But, he adds, business this year has been hard to predict for hotels and lodges.
“We’re definitely seeing a trend toward leaving bookings to the last minutes,” Borg says. “Ten years ago, guests made their plans three to four months in advance. Now, they sometimes make them only three to four days ahead of time.”
Hotels, and other business, also shouldn’t be discouraged if business doesn’t match up to the best years, particularly when airlines are cutting schedules and the economy continues to stumble.
“Compared with the best years – like 2000 – we’re down about 20 percent,” Borg says. “But given the weak economy, and given what’s going on internationally, if we 20 percent below a really good year, we’re doing well.”
Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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