Our view: Growing the tax base for all | SteamboatToday.com
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Our view: Growing the tax base for all

At issue

The City Council is poised to take a vote on creating an urban renewal area in downtown Steamboat Springs

Our view

This is a decision that has been years in the making and it’s time for City Council to do its job and vote up or down

Steamboat Springs City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday night on whether to establish an urban renewal area in downtown Steamboat in order to use tax increment financing for the purpose of improving public infrastructure there. We hope that after more than a year of debate the council will make a decision one way or another.

At issue

The City Council is poised to take a vote on creating an urban renewal area in downtown Steamboat Springs



Our view

This is a decision that has been years in the making and it’s time for City Council to do its job and vote up or down



A good deal has changed since Steamboat Today reported in July 2014 that the council was expected to vote on the matter that autumn. Notably, the state legislature passed and the governor signed a new law this year that goes into effect in January 2016 and gives other local taxing entities more input into the creation of TIFs.

More recently, a citizens group has announced it is circulating a petition seeking to put a question on the fall ballot that, if successful, would amend the city’s charter to require citizen approval of any future urban renewal plans that use tax increment financing to fund projects. If the council votes to move forward with the URA on Tuesday, the petition will have no bearing on this particular downtown development plan.

While we are generally in favor of the right of Colorado citizens to petition in order to vote on governmental issues, we would liken any plans to amend the charter to citizen drives to amend the state constitution. Those efforts often turn out to have unintended consequences, are very difficult to repeal when discovered to be undesirable and handcuff the state legislature.

Similarly, amending the city of Steamboat Springs’ charter to require URAs/TIFs to automatically go to a vote would hamper the ability of City Council to govern. It would have been desirable for the well-intentioned people circulating the petition this weekend to have done so 11 months ago with the intent of causing a vote on this particular URA, rather than attempting to amend the city’s charter virtually on the eve of the City Council vote.

With regard to the new state law, we think it would be wise for the city to take up offers from the school district and the county to join with smaller taxing entities in advance of January 2016 to talk about the URA, but not to negotiate over its creation, as House Bill 15-1348 will require as of next year. We think it’s important for the county and school district to have some say in how the URA can be managed to protect their revenue streams while growing the tax base for all.

With all this said, we still don’t advocate delaying Tuesday’s vote. The newspaper’s editorial board is on the record as supporting the URA. That has not changed, and we continue to think that over the long term, the URA holds the promise to substantially grow the property tax base of all of the taxing entities, large and small, whose boundaries include downtown Steamboat.

Keep in mind we are talking about collecting an increment of property tax growth that would take place in downtown Steamboat. Not only do we think it is the economic activity centered in the city of Steamboat that is driving the school district’s revenues — we also think in the decades ahead, it will be the economic energy of Steamboat Springs that will drive the growth of the tax base for Routt County. That includes the valuable residential properties being built within the county assessor’s recognized 10-mile radius of the city.

Routt County, the Steamboat Springs School District and the city of Steamboat Springs all have distinctly different, overlapping boundaries. But in many ways we are one. Delaying Tuesday’s vote would set us up for six more months of tension and misinformation.

If the voters of Steamboat Springs are displeased with City Council’s vote Tuesday, they can act on their convictions Nov. 3 when the current seats of council members Scott Myller, Bart Kounovsky, Sonja Macys and Kenny Reisman are on the ballot.


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