Davis County did better than Salt Lake County and the state as a whole on sales tax receipts for the fourth quarter of 1998. However, the county's retail prosperity is unevenly distributed and some of its smaller cities are facing a revenue crunch that is being reflected in their 1999-2000 budgets.
According to a report issued by the Utah State Tax Commission, taxable sales for the fourth quarter of 1998 were up 8.2 percent in Davis, compared to 5.8 percent in Utah. Salt Lake County was up 7.6 percent and Utah County was up 11.8 percent.In the Davis winner's circle for the fourth quarter were Kaysville, up 19.3 percent from the fourth quarter of 1997; Bountiful, up 7.6 percent; and Clearfield, up 7.5 percent.
Looking for more paying customers were West Bountiful, down 13.4 percent; Woods Cross, down 9.2 percent; North Salt Lake, down 1.8 percent; and Farmington, up 3 percent.
For West Bountiful, it was at least the second year in a row of decreasing sales, which dropped by 7.6 percent between the fourth quarter of 1996 and the fourth quarter of 1997. City officials say they have not yet been able to replace three major businesses that closed in the city three years ago.
West Bountiful's declining sales have forced it to give up on replacing its tiny, cramped city hall any time soon, to postpone other major projects and to forgo employee salary raises in 1999-2000.
The city's financial plight recently prompted the unprecedented spectacle of its entire City Council and administration and many of its citizens packing a City Council meeting in neighboring Woods Cross to ask that city to forgo annexing the Smith Farm, a potentially valuable parcel abutting both communities.
Although Woods Cross agreed to its neighbor's request, its own sales tax situation didn't look that good for the fourth quarter of 1998. The city's taxable sales showed a drop of 9.2 percent, compared with a healthy 15.6 percent increase for the fourth quarter of 1997.
The Woods Cross administration has warned the City Council that an economic downturn in the next 12 months could put the city's budget in the hole.
Centerville also saw its commercial wings clipped, with sales increasing by a modest 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 1998 compared with 19.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 1997, following the opening of the Centerville Marketplace.
In Farmington, taxable sales went up by only 3 percent in fourth quarter 1998, not much better that the 2.9 increase it registered in the fourth quarter of 1997.
After several years of sales tax revenue increases of 8 to 9 percent, Farmington's taxable sales have remained essentially flat during the last few years, said Keith Johnson, the city's finance director. With general fund expenditures increasing at a faster rate than sales taxes, Farmington is proposing to increase property taxes by 2 percent this year.
One Davis bright spot in 1998 was its hotel and lodging sales, which increased by 13.8 percent over 1997, compared with a drop of .9 percent in Salt Lake County.
For Wilf Sommerkorn, director of economic development for Davis County, this difference suggests that Davis has a hotel market that is distinct from that of Salt Lake County. He said he hopes financial analysts will note this difference as they consider whether to recommend funding for the stalled Layton Convention Center hotel project.
A few months ago, county officials cited bankers' concerns over soft hotel sales in Salt Lake County as a factor in a developer's failure to obtain financing for the Layton hotel.