Steamboat City Council unanimously votes to end property tax discussion

Steamboat Springs voters will not see a 2-mill property tax on the November ballot after all seven Steamboat Springs City Council members voted to kill the measure, which they had been discussing for almost a year.

Council made the decision Tuesday night after listening to five community members speak out against the proposed tax in the public comment portion of the meeting. Council member Robin Crossan, who has manned the council’s booth at the Main Street Steamboat Farmers Market on Saturdays, said she has heard from dozens of residents over the past several weeks who do not support the property tax.

“I hope that people will understand that this just isn’t ready for prime time,” Crossan said. “Hopefully, in another year, we can come back and try again.”

Les Liman, owner of ACZ Laboratories, Inc., an environmental testing laboratory based in Steamboat, spoke out against the measure because he said Steamboat’s skyrocketing housing prices have already made it difficult for the company to hire and retain employees, and he expected a property tax would make the city’s housing crisis even greater.

“Housing is the biggest issue that employers face in attempting to hire employees,” Liman said, adding that he has seen employees accept a job offer, then later, turn it down when they are unable to find housing in town.

Council members hoped to use the tax revenue from the proposed mill levy to support parks and recreation, which the city currently spends more than a million dollars on from its general fund.

“Thank you for considering parks and recreation, but we feel we’re not ready for this at this point,” said Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Executive Director Sarah Floyd, who said she was speaking on behalf of several different athletic groups in Steamboat.

Floyd also asked council to consider forming a working group with council, city staff and community members to figure out a way to sustainably fund parks and recreation.

When council voted 5-2 on first reading to pursue the tax, Council President Jason Lacy, who voted in favor on the measure, said he would consider changing his vote if members of the public did not speak in support of the measure during second reading.

“It’s pretty telling when the groups and people who might benefit the most from this aren’t even showing up to support it, and the ones who are showing up aren’t even supporting it right now,” Lacy said.

Steamboat City Manager Gary Suiter first brought the idea of a property tax to council in 2020, as he said the city needed to diversify its funding sources, rather than relying solely on sales tax.

Bill Jameson, a Steamboat resident who speaks at almost every council meeting, said he did not see a need for the city to diversify its revenue because sales tax has been sustainable, even through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You’re not diversifying your revenue; you’re just looking for more revenue,” Jameson said.

Though council did not discuss a firm plan of when it would like to revisit the issue, council member Lisel Petis encouraged future councils to consider spending property tax revenue on transit, rather than parks and recreation.

“When I think about transportation goals that we will need funding for, they meet the goals of affordable housing,” Petis said.

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