City opts for 2-mil property tax for voters to decide, potentially also repurposing 2A trail funds
Steamboat Springs City Council voted Tuesday to have City Attorney Dan Foote draft a ballot question asking voters to approve a property tax. Council would also like to move forward on asking the community to repurpose funds from the tax accommodation committee, also known as the 2A trails fund.
Six of the council’s seven members said they would like to implement a 2-mil property tax and put the revenue toward parks and recreation, which would include city trails, Howelsen Park Complex and city-owned sports facilities, with council member Heather Sloop saying she could not support a property tax. While Sloop did not support it herself, she did say she believes voters will likely pass it if they’re given a list of tangible needs the city has.
“I think if you guys really want people to get behind this, you need to say specifically what this will pay for, not just to polish up Howelsen,” Sloop said. “This is plausible and voteable. I might not support it, but at least someone else out there will.”
In addition to a property tax, council members also said they would like to move forward with asking voters to give the green light to repurpose the 2A trails tax accommodations. That idea came after Steamboat Chamber CEO Kara Stoller presented to council and suggested repurposing the funds for destination marketing, maintenance and management. Those funds expire in 2023 and would be repurposed starting in 2024; however, trails would still get $5.1 million over the 10 years as the original ballot language discussed.
Council members said they supported this idea because voters would not see a tax increase and putting funding toward destination management will help the community see mitigation on the impacts of so many visitors coming to town.
“I think there’s a compelling message to the community for destination management because people have concerns about how many people are coming into town, and it not being managed,” council member Lisel Petis said.
As for what specifically destination management would look like, Stoller and council members said they would need to work out details, but Stoller suggested leave-no-trace messaging campaigns and more enforcement for taking trash off trails.
However, council members wanted to make sure voters understood the money would not just be funding the chamber.
Council members also expressed differing viewpoints on how to sell the measure to voters, as they said it can be difficult to understand. Ultimately, President Jason Lacy felt council was not on the same page and needed to take more time to discuss before directing Foote to write a ballot question.
Council has been discussing a property tax since 2020, so Tuesday’s discussion was relatively short.
“I think we’ve had a lot of people actually ask us to put a property question on the ballot,” council member Kathi Meyer said. “That’s not to say it’s the majority of everybody that wants it, but if not now, then when.”
Lacy said he is concerned over how many people have dealt with financial hardships over the past year, but the city’s services would drop in quality if council did not propose another form of tax.
Council member Michael Buccino also said he felt putting property tax funding toward Howelsen Hill — which is under the larger parks and recreation umbrella — would be an easy sell to voters.
“I think that’s a jewel that needs to be shined and can be amazing for our locals as well as for our tourists,” Buccino said. “We can spend the next five or 10 years making that thing a jewel and lighting it up for the future.”
The city currently spends $6.47 million of its general fund on parks and recreation, and Buccino said dedicating a property tax specifically to the division will free up funds for future councils to spend on other projects.
“I really like this for our community in the future, so that future councils don’t have to keep throwing money at Howelsen Hill,” Buccino said.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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