Council wants public input on tax policy
The City Council said it wants to start holding public meetings on its tax policy, regardless of the outcome of a November property tax vote.
Determining how the city should tax its residents goes far beyond asking voters to approve the property tax for fire and ambulance services, Council President Kathy Connell said at Tuesday’s meeting. An accommodation tax, a lift-ticket tax, and a reduction in sales tax in lieu of property tax, are among other taxing options that have been discussed, Connell said.
Connell recommended bringing together a diverse representation of the community — such as individuals, the business community and education representatives — to look at the city’s taxing structure. The city could start by having an open meeting, and then work on putting together a tax advisory group, she said.
City Manager Paul Hughes suggested the council hold a meeting in January that focuses on tax-policy issues.
“We would be happy to work on this. I don’t think any of us believe the passage of the fire and ambulance tax will solve everything,” Hughes said.
During their campaigns, City Council candidates have made similar suggestions on changing tax policies and forming advisory committees.
Ken Brenner, a former City Council member who is running for the District 2 seat, said a tax advisory committee should have been formed after the first city property tax proposal failed in 2002.
He is a proponent of an overall tax policy change, suggesting sales tax could decrease and a property tax could be instated, but only to raise the amount lost by the decreased sales tax.
“I think a surprising number of people would be quite responsive to property taxes, not necessarily increasing taxes, but offsetting sales tax,” Brenner told the council.
If the city needs more revenue, he said a lodging tax could be used to fund projects such as the bus system, chamber marketing or airline subsidies.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Brenner asked the council to look at how other Colorado Association of Ski Towns members structure their taxes. He said some of those communities have separate funding mechanisms for transportation and marketing.
Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner noted that Steamboat is one of just nine communities in Colorado that do not have a property tax, compared with 270 communities that have property taxes averaging 13.42 mills. Delta, Montrose and Silverthorne are among the communities in Colorado that do not have property taxes.
Councilman Paul Strong said the city might want to hold off its tax-policy discussion until after the start of the 2004 Colorado legislative session. Strong predicts the state Legislature could have a tax reform proposal for the 2004 ballot.
Councilman Bud Romberg proposed following a property tax plan used in Park City where residents paid a lower property tax than second homeowners. City attorney Tony Lettunich said the Colorado Constitution makes that kind of tax illegal in Colorado.
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