OPINION: 2A is small investment with big returns | SteamboatToday.com

OPINION: 2A is small investment with big returns

This November, Steamboat voters will be asked to cast their votes on Referendum 2A, which will support air service into Yampa Valley Regional Airport. We urge you to vote “yes.”

Referendum 2A is a proposed 0.20 percent sales tax increase that equates to 20 cents on $100 spent on taxable items in Steamboat. It is a reintroduction of a similar tax initiative that voters overwhelmingly approved in 2011 and sunset in 2016. It's a reduction from the previous tax of 0.25 percent.

As of spring 2019, the reserves from the previous tax will be depleted, which is why we need to reinstate the tax for continued uninterrupted support of the program.

The monies that would be generated by Referendum 2A, approximately $1.3 million annually, are not the sole source of funding for the airline program. In fact, just like with the previous tax, they would be the smallest of the three sources that pay for an enviable airline program that's been successful for over 32 years.

The first source of funding for the air program comes from Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., who will increase its past annual contribution by 45 percent, to $1.6 million. The second source of funding is the lodging community, through its 2 percent accommodations tax that contributes another $1.6 million annually.

Neither of these two significant sources of funding are generated by a tax on residents. Steamboat locals would be paying for a fraction of the program.

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Nonstop air service from major cities into Steamboat began in 1986, and this service is currently one of our community's most important economic arteries. Nonstop/direct flight visitors spend an average of $1,345 per person per visit to Steamboat. Revenue from tourism makes up at least 40 percent of our city's sales tax base, providing funding for our essentials such as schools, snowplowing, Steamboat Springs Transit and law enforcement.

Unfortunately, major airlines will not provide regular nonstop air service into Steamboat/Hayden unless revenue for their flights is guaranteed. Without guarantees, there would be fewer flights and fewer dollars coming into our economy.

The success of the previous air tax enabled the airline program to expand from six to 15 markets including several cities on the West coast and to add daily Houston flights in the summer.

The airline program also brought in competitively priced carriers in JetBlue and Alaska Airlines, making it an asset that's not just attractive to our visitors, but also to location-neutral businesspeople and other residents. These new flights and carriers make it easier and more cost effective for residents to fly in and out of Steamboat for business and personal needs.

The airline program is truly an economic driver that directly or indirectly impacts every resident of the community. Referendum 2A will generate $1.3 million annually, and while it is the smallest of the funding sources for the program, it is essential to continuing our successful airline program. At a cost of 20 cents on $100 spent on taxable goods, this is a small investment from our residents with a big return on our local economy.

Voting “yes” on Referendum 2A is vital to keep our local Steamboat economy flying strong. 

Ulrich Salzgeber, Mark Walker, Lizzie LaRock, Janet Fischer, Bob Kuusinen, Kelly Landers, Lizzie LaRock, Charlie MacArthur, Walter Magill, Blair McNamara, Rob Perlman, Barbara Robinson, Suzanne Schlicht, Kara Stoller and Bob Weiss.

Steamboat Citizens to Ensure Air Service committee