The financial fallout from the Balloon Fiesta cancellation has officially landed in the city of Albuquerque’s books, but pinpointing it is a tricky proposition.
Newly released numbers show that the city’s total gross receipts tax revenue for October was $1.77 million, or 4.4%, less than the same month in 2019.
Direct year-to-year comparisons are difficult, due to significant variations between 2019 and 2020. That includes both COVID-19 and changes in how much revenue the state is sharing with the city.
But Albuquerque’s city economist is estimating that losing the 2020 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta accounted for about $1.5 million of October’s gross receipts tax decline.
Gross receipts tax, or GRT, is similar to a sales tax and is assessed on the sale of nearly all goods and services. The tax fuels local government, funding about two-thirds of basic city services.
City Economist Christine Boerner said she that had forecast a greater hit – a little more than $3 million – but that October’s results may not tell the whole story. She suspects the Balloon Fiesta’s cancellation had some impact on September GRT revenue, which was down $1.2 million, and November, which the city will not get until January.
“We don’t want to be going, ‘Yay! It was only $1.5 million,'” she said. “That’s not wise.”
Boerner said she based her forecasts partly on a Balloon Fiesta-commissioned study of the 2019 event’s economic impact. It concluded that the fiesta contributed $12 million in tax revenue, including about $4.1 million to the city of Albuquerque.
But Boerner said the $4.1 million figure also included lodgers tax, a special tax on hotel stays that is separate from the GRT.
According to city data, October 2020 lodgers tax and hospitality fee collections were $1.5 million, or 68%, less than in October 2019; however, COVID-19 has decimated lodgers tax revenue since the spring – July, for example, was down 55% – so Balloon Fiesta would not have accounted for all of October’s decline.
Boerner has not specifically analyzed the lodgers tax to isolate the Balloon Fiesta impact, but she said she believes the event’s cancellation cost the city more than $1.5 million in the lost October GRT.
It is, however, difficult to discern, given everything else happening. The specific business sectors hurt by Balloon Fiesta’s cancellation, such as restaurants and entertainment, were already reeling by October.
“All along, I’ve been very, very interested to see what happened this month, and the dip is there; we expected that, but it’s still … hard to understand exactly,” she said. “If the pandemic hadn’t started and all we did is cancel Balloon Fiesta, I’d have a really nice picture of its impact, but that’s not what happened.”
SENIOR DANCING: What are your plans for 2021? Bernalillo County Senior and Social Services has some ideas.
The county is promoting a series of free online programs that begin in January, including group dance lessons from Keshet Dance (for those 55 or older) and a Zoom-based comedy workshop for the 50-plus set. Led by former “Tonight Show” writer Jo Firestone, the comedy program will help older adults “use humor as an outlet with social/brain stimulating activities,” according to a county news release.
For more information on each program, including registration links, visit bernco.gov/general-news.aspx and click on the release about online activities for seniors.
CENTRAL SITE: COVID-19 testing is now available for free in Nob Hill.
The city of Albuquerque and New Mexico Department of Health partnered to open a Curative testing site this past week at 3222 Central SE, the former Kellys Brew Pub.
No appointments are required, and it will operate from 4 to 6 p.m. daily except for Friday.
Jessica Dyer: firstname.lastname@example.org