Council to hear economic outlook |

Council to hear economic outlook

Summer marketing contract, lawsuit set for secret session

Brandon Gee

Councilman Jon Quinn fears “more doom and gloom” when economist Carl Steidtmann gives a report to the Steamboat Springs City Council tonight.

As council continues to work its way through a difficult budget season, City Council President Loui Antonucci said Steidtmann, a chief economist with Deloitte Research, will give council members his opinion about “where we are in the economy, where we are going and how does it relate to Steamboat.”

Councilwoman Meg Bentley, who attended Steidtmann’s presentation to more than 100 people at a Vectra Bank event earlier this month, suggested the report.

“The principles he talked about I thought would be really helpful not only in budget season, but beyond that,” Bentley said.

At the Vectra event, Steidtmann predicted a modest recession with a slow recovery that could start late next year. Bentley expects Steidtmann to tailor his message today to how a municipality primarily funded by sales and use tax should deal with a down economy.

Quinn said he is curious to hear what Steidtmann has to say about consumer spending, the economist’s specialty, because the councilman fears the city’s current projection of a 4 percent sales tax decrease in 2009 might be off.

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“I think a 4 percent decrease right now is optimistic,” Quinn said. “There’s going to be less discretionary spending in my personal life. I think a lot of people are probably in the same boat.”

At the Vectra event earlier this month, Steidtmann estimated consumer spending would decrease 5 percentage points as a portion of gross domestic product.

“Households are not going to have the amount of credit they had in the past,” Steidtmann said, “so we’re going to see a reduction in consumer spending.”

Council will kick off its meeting at 4:30 p.m. with an executive, or secret, session to discuss a pending lawsuit against the city, and the city’s summer marketing contract with the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

The marketing has been funded for decades by a 3.3 percent allocation of the sales tax the city collects from Steamboat merchants. At a meeting last month, in the face of declining revenues and looking for savings, council members directed city staff to keep the 3.3 percent allocation but adopt practices similar to the state’s that would disqualify audit findings, late filings and tax collected on the sale of a business.

After research and consultation with city accountants, Chamber Executive Vice President Sandy Evans Hall estimated the change would decrease the summer marketing budget, which was $638,352 in 2008, but about 6 percent, or $34,000. But in a council meeting earlier this year, Assistant Finance Director Bob Litzau said the decrease would be much larger, at least 30 percent, for reasons he said he could not discuss in a public setting.

“Certainly we can try to put together a minimal campaign for a 10 percent decrease,” Evans Hall said, “but anything more and we’re really hurting our ability to market Steamboat and bring people up here.”

Evans Halls said city officials have said they believe the decrease would be 47 percent, or about $300,000, but she has yet to receive an explanation of the discrepancy between that estimate and her own.

The pending lawsuit is being brought by the Humble Ranch Education & Therapy Center south of Steamboat Springs, which opposes the city’s plans for a trail along Agate Creek.

“The city has a trail easement agreement for pedestrians, equestrians and cyclists along Agate Creek and into those areas, and there’s a dispute of all those issues with Humble Ranch, and we’re in litigation,” said Chris Wilson, the city’s director of parks, open space and recreational services.

Specifically, Humble Ranch and other area residents believe cycling is not compatible with current uses. Humble Ranch provides therapeutic activities, including horseback riding, for people with special needs.

“Their argument is bicycles create conflicts with pedestrian and equestrian use,” City Attorney Tony Lettunich said. “I need to meet with the City Council and discuss our options.”

Wilson said a mediation session in Denver is scheduled later this month. Messages left on Humble Ranch owner Ed Trousil’s office and cell phones were not returned Monday.


4:30 p.m. Executive session to discuss a lawsuit brought against the city by Humble Ventures and the city’s summer marketing contract with the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association

5 p.m. Council convenes as the Steamboat Springs Liquor License Authority to set a hearing date for a new liquor license request for the St. Cloud Mountain Club at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area and to hold a public hearing on a liquor license request for the Diplomat in the 900 block of Lincoln Avenue

5:10 p.m. Report from Carl Steidtmann, chief economist and director of Deloitte Research – Consumer Business; motions to approve grant applications; resolution recommending inclusion of the Schaffnit House, located in the 400 block of Oak Street, in the National Register of Historic Places; resolution adopting a “red flag policy” and establishing an identity theft prevention program for the city; second reading of an ordinance to buy and sell real estate; Planning Commission referrals

7 p.m. Public comment; City Council reports; staff reports