Air service group seeks tax renewal flight plan from city of Steamboat
March 18, 2016
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs City Council will soon be asked if it wants to put a general sales tax devoted to securing ski season airline service back in front of the voters this fall. But exactly what the ballot question looks like remains up in the air.
The .25 cents of general sales tax to fund winter air service which has been collected by the city since January 2012 was approved overwhelmingly by the voters in Nov 2011. But the tax is due to expire at the end of the year.
The board of the Local Marketing District (LMD), which decides which airline routes to subsidize with minimum revenue guarantees (partially funded by the tax), agreed March 18 to reach out to officials at the city of Steamboat Springs and ask if, and how they want to proceed with putting a question extending the tax on the November ballot. the board had already state its desire to renew the tax in January.
LMD attorney Tom Sharp encouraged the board to arrange a meeting with City Council President Walter Magill, Chamber CEO Jim Clark, interim City Manager Gary Suiter, and perhaps other resort officials, to find out what role they expect the LMD board to play, if any, in crafting the ballot language.
"It's not urgent, but the sooner you begin, the better," Sharp said, adding that ballot language wouldn't be due until late summer.
No one at Friday's meeting advocated changing the amount of the airline sales tax at the same time the voters are asked to re-up, but that possibility was alluded to.
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"If this is just a re-run of the current language, the current .25 percent (there might be less urgency in working on the ballot language), or if the funding is going to change in the amount of the percentage, or if the wording of what (the tax) is for, you're going to have a lot more input and a lot more people having an interest in it," Milne said.
Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Rob Perlman observed that the renewal of the tax would likely be easier to pass if its remains unchanged.
"If it's a straight renewal, it's easier to understand and (for us to) continue on the path of success we've been on," Perlman said.
Because the annual revenues are allowed only to be applied to the following ski season, there would still be money available to fund the 2017/2018 ski season flight program even if the tax was not renewed this fall.
The LMD has access to a bigger pot of money than the approximately $1.45 million generated by the quarter-cent tax. The ski corp. puts up $1.1 million annually, with a promise to fund any shortfall on the backside, and the proceeds of a 2 percent lodging tax on accommodations within the base of the ski area, also goes to fund the program.
Perlman said the airline program has good momentum as the sales tax nears the end of its original approval.
"We've seen great success the last couple of years in the growth of capacity at the airport in terms of summer as well as winter," he said. "We've seen it pay off in terms of additional sales taxes and passengers themselves.
After the 2014/2015 ski season, the most recent for which final numbers are available, four airlines collectively required Steamboat's airline program to put up $4.47 million in minimum revenue guarantees, but the revenue performance of the flights required that the program actually pay up on $1.163 million of the total. The number of passengers arriving at YVRA during that ski season rose 7.6 percent from 70,000 in 2013-14 to 75,320 with the help of an additional 8,400 inbound seats.