Steamboat City Council creates subcommittee to study lift tax
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs City Council voted to move forward on negotiations with Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. on a potential tax on lift tickets.
Council members opted to form a subcommittee to study the issue. Committee members will include council members Heather Sloop and Sonja Macys and members of the Ski & Resort Corp. leadership team.
Ski & Resort Corp.currently has an agreement with the city where it pays a 4.5% sales tax on items sold at its businesses located outside city limits. If this tax were passed, it would no longer pay that sales tax, according to a report from City Manager Gary Suiter.
If council chooses to pursue a lift tax, the issue would need to be approved by city voters. City Council President Jason Lacy said the subcommittee meetings may not be open to the public or members of the media since only two council members will be attending.
“Since only two council members will be meeting with the Ski Corp. as part of a subcommittee, those meetings will not be open meetings, so it would require the agreement of Ski Corp. and the subcommittee members to invite any other third parties to any meeting,” Lacy said.
Suiter told council Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge and Winter Park receive direct financial support from their ski resorts, which council members pointed to as a reason for Steamboat Resort to contribute.
“We are absolutely willing to sit at the table and work collaboratively,” Ski & Resort Corp. President and COO Rob Perlman said. “We feel we’re contributing to that, and we will continue to contribute to that and we’re also receptive to ways we can make it better.”
Perlman said the resort has struggled financially due to COVID-19.
“The council keeps talking about our customers, but they’re not the ski area’s customers,” Perlman said. “These are guests within our community that are coming to the city of Steamboat, and they’re spending money everywhere. We’re working our way out of a pandemic.”
“The city’s goal is to attain more financial stability and offset more of the costs that provide direct benefit to the ski area,” Suiter said. “Ski Corp. has indicated support if we can agree to services and programs that enhance the ski area operation and the guest experience for the long term.”
If council chooses to move forward with a lift tax, city staff recommended the revenue be used to fund Steamboat Springs Transit, as many Ski & Resort Corp. employees rely on the service to get to work.
While the discussion is still in preliminary phases, some council members suggested an impact fee, which City Attorney Dan Foote said would require a study measuring the impact of all industries in Steamboat, would be more useful than a tax on the resort.
“At this point, I think it’s too early on in the discussion to narrow in on whether we want a lift tax or an impact fee,” council member Kathi Meyer said. “We need to make sure we have a real partnership.”
Several council members also expressed concern with a behind-closed-doors negotiation with Ski & Resort Corp.
“I believe that the people’s work should be done in public,” said council member Heather Sloop. “I don’t understand what would be accomplished behind the scenes.”
Sloop and Macys agreed to provide council members with weekly updates from the subcommittees meetings.
Discussions on long-term transit funding kicked up earlier in the year, as Ski & Resort Corp. backed out of its original verbal commitment to fund the city’s Blue Line that serves the ski area. Loryn Duke, Ski & Resort Corp. director of communications, said the decision came as number of people visiting the resort dropped 30% due to COVID-19.
Suiter and City Finance Director Kim Weber are also recommending council wait to put a lift tax on the 2022 ballot, as such a decision would need to be approved by voters at the same time council is already deep in discussions about putting a property tax on the 2021 ballot. Council members agreed.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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