Seven of the fifteen cities have stayed ahead of previous years’ numbers for all four months. Many of them by quite a bit. Riverton’s sales tax collection is up 36% relative to its 2017-2019 average. West Jordan is up 26% and Holladay 22%. Five others are in the 10-20% range (West Valley City, Taylorsville, South Salt Lake, Millcreek and Cottonwood Heights).
The question is: why the big increase? Stocking up on toilet paper in March doesn’t explain it. And the growth is more than what one would expect from regular economic expansion. So why are Utah businesses as a whole collecting more sales tax during COVID-19?
One possible reason could be that Utahns who normally would be traveling out-of-state for vacation - spending their money at Disneyland or Las Vegas or in Europe - are staying home and spending that money here instead.
Fewer dollars spent by Utahns on travel could mean more dollars spent here.
There also may have been an influx of college students who normally would have been living on campus, in places like Provo or Logan or other university towns out of state, but who returned to their parents’ houses in Salt Lake County, bringing their valuable young adult spending habits with them.
Of course, all these numbers mean is that these city governments should be in pretty good shape. They’re not reflective of the state economy as a whole. According to UtahPolicy.com, sales tax collection is up statewide by 5.9% but the state’s revenue from income taxes is down 10.1%. So while most city governments seem to be in pretty good shape, many individuals and small businesses within those cities may not have been as fortunate.