Downtown property tax proposal likely heading to ballot in 2018
Downtown business leaders who have spent years trying to get property tax revenue to keep the city’s urban corridor clean and in tip-top shape will wait another year to ask voters for tax funding a third time.
Some downtown business leaders were eying a ballot question as early as this year.
But Main Street Steamboat Manager Lisa Popovich said there just isn’t enough time left in the year for a ballot question to be crafted before a filing deadline, along with an educational campaign in support of the tax.
She said the plan is now for a tax question seeking funding for the downtown business improvement district to hit the ballot in 2018.
“The decision is to go forward,” she said.
The push for the downtown tax funding will be led by the business community, not by Main Street itself, she said.
Popovich said downtown leaders ultimately need to take more time to come up with a vision for what the tax money would actually be spent on.
That process will begin next month, when there are plans to revive the board that oversees the downtown business improvement district.
Commercial property owners and their tenants downtown have twice rejected property tax increases to pay for maintenance and upkeep in their district.
Popovich largely attributed those failures to two things.
She said she thinks the previous campaigns lacked a clear vision for what the funds would be spent on.
The second holdup, Popovich said, was a fear that, if downtown property owners approved a property tax, the city would scale back its financial support in the future.
Popovich suggested downtown business leaders could come to an agreement with the city about a baseline level of support in the future to alleviate those fears.
“The downtown community will feel much more secure,” she said.
A BID tax proposal failed in 2014 by a vote of 135 to 120, and a similar effort failed by six votes in 2007.
The last tax proposal would have raised an estimated $260,000 per year.
Popovich said the decision to pursue a property tax downtown a third time was made after consultants recently met with stakeholders to discuss the prospect of a tax and what it might fund.
The city’s elected officials have also expressed support for the funding mechanism in recent years.
The last time the issue came up was late 2016, when the Steamboat Springs City Council agreed to pay for new holiday lights on Lincoln Avenue.
Elected officials implied that, while they would foot the bill for the first year, they would look to downtown property owners to pitch in in the future.
“It sure would be helpful for city finances if they vote” to fund a business improvement district, City Council President Walter Magill said.
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