By Jasmine Hall
Jackson Hole Daily
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
JACKSON — After experiencing record sales and use tax collections last fiscal year, Teton County was the only county in the state to see a decline in 2023.
The Wyoming Economic Analysis Division attributed the .1% dip from fiscal year 2022 to the sudden, temporary closure of Yellowstone National Park due to historic flooding.
Yellowstone closed June 13, 2022, when park officials evacuated more than 10,000 visitors as campsites flooded and rivers reached 100-year flood heights, washing out roads.
Although the South Entrance saw less damage and reopened June 22, 2022, Teton County still saw a drop in lodging and food sales. Economists responsible for the annual report on sales and use tax collections pointed out the country’s oldest national park saw limited admission until December.
Looking at the lodging tax collections by county, Teton County, which collects more than half of Wyoming’s lodging taxes for its two national parks, was down 7.5% in fiscal year 2023. The impacts of Yellowstone’s closure rippled beyond Teton County.
“Total lodging tax collections (including the statewide lodging taxes), $57.1 million for fiscal year 2023, were down slightly from the $59.1 million collected in the previous year, or [minus] 3.4%,” reported lead economists Wenlin Liu and Emily Johnson. “The year-over-year change for the state-imposed 3% lodging tax collections was [minus] 4%.”
The downturn comes after record-breaking outdoor and park visitation and substantially increased lodging prices, which together led to total lodging sales in the state increasing by 47% in fiscal year 2022 compared to fiscal year 2021, which included the first summer impacted by COVID-19. Fiscal years do not follow calendar years. For example, fiscal year 2021 ran from July 2020 through June 2021.
Park County, the second-biggest collector of lodging tax in the state, also was affected by the summer flooding in Yellowstone. Park County saw an 11.2% decline in fiscal year 2023.
“It was not a surprise that the closure and the subsequent limited admission due to flooding in Yellowstone National Park, and the return to normal post-COVID tourism activities reversed the direction in lodging sales for the fiscal year 2023,” the economists wrote in the annual report.
While there was a slowdown in lodging taxes, overall sales and use tax collections reached $1.2 billion, a 15% increase from fiscal year 2022, according to the Economic Analysis Division.
“With this strong expansion, the amount of total sales and use taxes for fiscal year 2023 reached a new record,” Liu reported. “However, it’s still 11.1% less than FY 2015 level if measured in inflation adjusted dollars.”
As economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic faded, Wyoming’s economy rallied in fiscal year 2023, with a rebound of oil and gas drilling, robust payroll job additions, a low unemployment rate and strong income growth, the economists concluded. Compared to fiscal year 2022, nearly every major industrial sector experienced an increase in sales and use tax collections, they said.
Retail is the largest sector in terms of sales and use tax collections and experienced an 8.7% increase, but didn’t compare to growth rates seen in the mining industry or utilities sector, the report showed. Mining grew 55.8% due to the continued rebound in exploration activities, but it was still lower than fiscal year 2019. The utilities sector grew 32.7% as a result of increased activities in wind power and general rate increases in utility gas service
Other collection gains were seen in the wholesale trade, transportation and machinery and equipment leasing and repair industries, as well as sales and use taxes generated by online shopping.
Counties leading the state’s overall increase in sales and use tax collections included: Converse, at 42.6%, and Carbon, at 34.9%. Albany, Campbell, Niobrara and Sublette counties each saw 20% increases.
Although there was growth due to persistent and elevated inflation across most goods and services, Liu largely attributed it to energy.
“These counties benefited from either the continued rebound in mineral activities or wind power projects in FY 2023,” Wyoming’s chief economist concluded.