Our View: Time to pitch in
At issue: The City Council is poised to place a downtown property tax issue on the November ballot.
Our view: After the city made a $7 million investment in downtown, we think it’s time for business owners to support a tax and share the cost of services like increased trash pick up and sidewalk snow removal in the downtown area.Editorial Board • Logan Molen, publisher • Lisa Schlichtman, editor • Alice Klauzer, community representative • Cameron Hawkins, community representative Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatToday.com.
Steamboat Springs City Council began discussions last week that could pave the way toward placing a property tax issue on the November ballot to fund the downtown improvement district, which was formed in 2007 but has never been funded after tax proposals failed in 2014 and 2016.
The property tax would be used to fund a wide range of services in the downtown area including increased trash pick up during busy weekends, snow removal on sidewalks and additional lighting.
This time around, the tax the council is considering is slightly different than the measures that were previously defeated. This version seems to take into consideration some of the issues that were raised during previous campaigns to pass the measure.
The proposal divides the district into two zones. The primary zone includes businesses on Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Street and the side streets that run between those streets. For this zone, BID, or business improvement district, funding would support sidewalk snow removal, litter pick up, street sweeping and a more frequent schedule to empty trash receptacles.
The secondary zone includes businesses on Oak Street and the side streets between Lincoln Anevue and Oak Street. These businesses would not receive all the services as the primary zone, but they would benefit from the tax through additional marketing efforts, public art and way-finding signs throughout the district.
In addition, nonprofits located within the improvement district could be assessed at a reduced rate or receive a property tax waiver. This would be handled on a case-by-case basis and at the discretion of the improvement disctricts’s board of directors, who would guide how the property tax is spent.
It is anticipated the BID would raise about $300,000 annually. This funding would be generated from a mill levy based on a property’s assessed value, special assessments on nonprofits and an annual contribution from the city. The city’s portion of the funding would compensate for the improvement district taking over some of the services the city is currently providing in the downtown area.
All in all, we think this funding plan makes sense, and we hope the third time’s the charm for passage of the business improvement district tax issue. The city invested nearly $7 million in downtown improvements that have transformed the area, and we think it’s now time for business owners, who are benefiting from that investment, to step up and take on a share of the costs to maintain the business district going forward.
There was some confusion surrounding the tax in 2016, and the issue failed by only seven votes. Therefore, it will be important for the district to embark on a strong educational campaign before the vote to ensure its passage.
We urge the council to place the issue on the ballot as presented by the district, and we encourage property owners in the district to support it come November.
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