Group opposing Steamboat’s proposed STR tax raises $82K with help from vacation rental companies

Group supporting tax has raised $23K and gotten another $17K worth of support from a Denver-based advocacy group

Buoyed by donations from local short-term rental operators, the campaign to defeat Steamboat Spring’s ballot measure proposing a 9% tax on short-term rentals has raised more than $82,000, according to reports from the city clerk’s office.

The largest single contributor to Citizens for Responsible Housing Policies is the Steamboat Springs Community Preservation Alliance, a group that has ties to online short-term rental giant VRBO.

Other top donations came from vacation rental businesses like Vacasa, Resort Group, Steamboat Lodging Company, BREO Inc. and Moving Mountains, among others.

House Our Community, the group formed in support of the STR tax, has raised more than $23,000 in cash donations, with the largest contribution coming from Sara and Michael Craig-Scheckman.

The Denver-based nonprofit advocacy group Healthier Colorado has gotten involved as well, donating another $17,250 worth of “in-kind’ contributions like website creation, graphic design and staff support, in addition to a $1,500 cash donation.

Through Oct. 13, the two groups have spent more than $100,000 to sway Steamboat voters ahead of the Nov. 8 election, with Citizens for Responsible Housing Polices spending more than $70,000 of that.

Finance reports from the clerk’s office show Citizens for Responsible Housing Policies has about $11,000 so far unspent, compared to about $10,000 for House Our Community, though each group could still get more donations ahead of Election Day.

Steamboat City Council referred the tax question to voters in July. If approved, the measure would allow council to institute an up to 9% tax on short-term rentals, but not other lodging entities like hotels. That money would be used at council’s discretion to support affordable and attainable housing projects, including, but not limited to, the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s Brown Ranch.

Currently, most STRs have an effective tax rate of 11.4% charged on stays. If passed, the effective tax rate could climb as high as 20.4%, which would be one of the highest in Colorado, a study from the Steamboat Springs Chamber shows. That study showed if the full tax was implemented, it would lead to a 3.6% decline in demand for STRs locally.

While the question asks for a 9% tax, some on council — largely council President Robin Crossan — have expressed a desire to institute the tax at a lesser rate. The question gives council the authority to change the level of the tax “from time to time.”

Where the money is coming from

The Steamboat Springs Community Preservation Alliance, which backed pro-STR candidates for city council last year and launched and later abandoned an effort to recall three council members in August, contributed $25,000 to Citizens for Responsible Housing Policies.

The preservation alliance is part of a network of similar alliances across the country, according to Rent Responsibly, which bills itself as a “community building and education platform for local short-term rental alliances.” VRBO is a founding partner of Rent Responsibly, according to the group’s website.

Citizens for Responsible Housing Policies received a $15,000 loan from Moving Mountains, the Steamboat-based luxury vacation home rental company. Moving Mountains donated another $12,400 to the group.

The group opposing the tax received donations from nine different states, but 93% of donations came from within Colorado. House Our Community has out-of-state donations as well, though they represent less than 2% of all cash contributions.

All but four donations to House Our Community were for less than $105. The largest single donation to the group was $18,500 and came from Sara and Michael Craig-Scheckman, founders of local nonprofit Craig-Scheckman Family Foundation.

When combining Healthier Colorado’s in-kind and cash contributions, it contributed $18,750 to House Our Community. This includes $11,500 that was explained in campaign finance documents as staff support.

Healthier Colorado is a nonpartisan organization that lobbies for policies that improve the health of the state’s residents, according to its website. The group advocates on a statewide and local level around issues of housing, education, mental health and criminal justice, among others.

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