Committee to make parks and recreation property tax recommendation Tuesday night | SteamboatToday.com
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Committee to make parks and recreation property tax recommendation Tuesday night

Scott Franz
Chris Lauzon does a trick on his skateboard Monday at Bear River Skate Park. The city has a master plan that calls for an expansion of the skate park but lacks the funding to execute it.
Scott Franz

in other action

Parks and rec funding is only one of the many items the council will discuss Tuesday night.

Other agenda items include:

• A second and final reading of the city's 2017 budget.

• A potential update to the City Council's code of ethics

• A discussion about the fate of the historic Arnold barn, which has been neglected now for several years. The City Council could decide to take legal action against a property owner and a developer who have denied maintenance responsibility for the barn.

• A discussion about a potential local improvement district to fund public infrastructure in the proposed River View development in downtown Steamboat Springs.

• A final reading of an ordinance to raise city water and sewer rates for commercial and residential customers.

View the full agenda here.

— A proposal for a new property tax to better fund Steamboat Springs’ parks and recreation amenities will face its first test Tuesday night when the plan is presented to the city’s elected officials.

in other action

Parks and rec funding is only one of the many items the council will discuss Tuesday night.

Other agenda items include:

• A second and final reading of the city’s 2017 budget.

• A potential update to the City Council’s code of ethics

• A discussion about the fate of the historic Arnold barn, which has been neglected now for several years. The City Council could decide to take legal action against a property owner and a developer who have denied maintenance responsibility for the barn.

• A discussion about a potential local improvement district to fund public infrastructure in the proposed River View development in downtown Steamboat Springs.

• A final reading of an ordinance to raise city water and sewer rates for commercial and residential customers.

View the full agenda here.

A committee that has spent months looking for ways to solve Steamboat Springs’ parks and rec funding woes is recommending the new tax revenue along with the formation of a parks and recreation district and a foundation.

Under a parks district, the future funding and maintenance of the city’s parks, open spaces and other recreation amenities would be overseen by a new elected board instead of City Council.

Board members would not have to weigh the maintenance and improvement of local park assets against core city services such as police services, firefighters and water.

But just like sales tax revenue, the property tax revenue could take a big swing in a weaker economy.

The committee’s tax proposal would seek a new 12.5-mill city property tax that could raise up to $7.9 million annually. But to offset some of the impact on taxpayers, the plan also calls for the forgiveness of $5 million in sales taxes on groceries and utilities in the city.

The parks and recreation department would then be left with about $3 million more in funding each year than it currently receives.

According to the committee, the property tax increase would cost an owner of a $500,000 house an estimated $498 each year

The tax impact on the owner of a $500,000 commercial property would total $1,813 each year.

Revenue generated by the parks and recreation assets would ultimately lower the overall property tax burden.

While the tax impact would be less if the proposal applied to some parts of Routt County just outside of the city limits, Routt County commissioners have already indicated they would not endorse a tax increase for their constituents.

The alternative funding committee believes a new funding source and governance structure are needed to solve a funding crisis that is keeping park plans on shelves and making it hard or economically impossible to adequately maintain existing amenities, such as Howelsen Hill.

“We feel good about the recommendation for sure. This is a very rational and reasonable way to approach the issue,” committee chairman Doug Tumminello said Monday. “The real question is whether they have the appetite to take on this tax to fund these types of amenities, and we certainly hope so.”

Tumminello said it will ultimately be up to voters to decide whether they want to change both the funding structure and governance of parks and recreation.

“What do we value, and what are we willing to pay for?” Tumminello asked.

The plan from the committee does not yet address the unknown cost of preserving Howelsen Hill.

City offiicials are hoping a comprehensive study will give them a better idea of what it will cost to mitigate against costly landslides and keep up infrastructure on the hill in the future.

The alternative funding committee suggested Howelsen Hill preservation could be addressed in a separate funding proposal.

Tumminello acknowledged the property tax plan will likely be met with some concern, and opposition, in the community.

If the City Council appears supportive of the idea, the alternative funding committee would initiate a series of public meetings to discuss the proposal further.

Voters would need to approve both the parks and recreation district and a property tax increase.

The committee embarked on its quest to find an alternative funding source about a year and a half ago.

Tumminello said a wide range of options were explored.

The committee was formed after the city was seeing an increased demand for parks and recreation amenities at a time city officials reported the $5 million budget wasn’t enough to adequately cover even existing maintenance needs.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Commission took the position that the city’s general fund was not adequately funding the department.

Parks and Community Services Director John Overstreet said the city is currently lagging behind on several benchmarks of parks funding.

Trails are not maintained at a level seen in other mountain resort communities, he said, and deferred maintenance is stacking up.

“We are so far behind on deferred maintenance right now, with all the issues and with Howelsen Hill,” Overstreet said. “We just aren’t keeping up the way we should be.”

The alternative funding committee will present its findings on the same night the City Council will be asked to sign a check for an emergency repair to one of the ski jumps at Howelsen Hill.

Tumminello said the emergency repair is an example of the issues the group is trying to solve.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10


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