For a community that can historically rely so much on the tourist dollar to help literally build the town, the effects of the pandemic on the Stowe economy in 2021 were not as bad as anticipated.

As the saying goes, the town has the receipts.

The 1 percent local option tax levied on meals, alcohol and rooms within Stowe’s boundaries has been a reliable source of revenue that the town uses every year to fund certain capital projects that would otherwise be paid for by taxes.

Instituted at Town Meeting Day in 2006, the local tax brought in around $450,000 the first year. In recent years, the revenue was around $1 million.

Now, a year after the town’s number crunchers set a conservative estimate of half that and saw those expectations pleasantly proved wrong, the town is once again forecasting the revenue to exceed the seven-digit mark again by the end of the fiscal year next June.

That forecast was buoyed by the fact that, in the first quarter of the current fiscal year that began July 1, the town raked in $417,000, which is more than double the take last year.

In fact, it’s the single highest quarter for rooms, meals and alcohol returns the town has ever seen since it’s had an option tax. And it happened during a pandemic.

Clearly, someone’s making money. Thus, it’s perhaps not surprising that the town’s business marketing organization, the Stowe Area Association, wants in on the local option action. After all, the revenue comes from the restaurants, bars and hotels the association represents.

The town rebuffed the association’s request for an annual appropriation based on a percentage of the local option tax, saying such appropriations must be based on actual receipts, not projections.

And projections are clearly not easy to make. Who would’ve thought that, following a quarter in 2020 when receipts were down 95 percent in the lodging sector, the local hospitality sector would shatter records a year later?

Of course, the first quarter of this fiscal year coincided with everyone taking their masks off for the summer, after the state all but flew a “Mission Accomplished” banner from a John Deere on the Statehouse lawn. That luxury was short lived, as the Delta variant of the coronavirus, and now Omicron, reminded people we are not out of the woods.

Still, it’s quite evident that Stowe is no ghost town. People are coming here, whether it’s because of the state’s reputation for being a highly vaccinated place to spend some pent-up cash or whether it’s because of all the reasons people came to Vermont in the years and decades prior to the pandemic.

All is not rosy, though.

While receipts from food, alcohol and rooms revenue that are up 105 percent over pre-pandemic levels may suggest the Stowe business sector is COVID-proof, the endless landscape of Help Wanted signs and hiring bonuses and revolving doors for employees suggests that there is more demand for service than there are people to meet that demand.

The federal government helped the hospitality agency through its Paycheck Protection Program last year and its Restaurant Revitalization Fund in 2021. While that federal cheddar surely kept some places — but certainly not all — from closing, there remains a disconnect.

The question for 2022 and beyond remains: if a diner orders an entree, a hotel guest rings a front desk bell or a bar patron asks for another round, and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?

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