Steamboat City Council votes to consider first reading on 2-mill property tax
After nearly a year of discussion, Steamboat Springs City Council voted Tuesday to schedule a first reading of an ordinance to put a 2-mill property tax on the November ballot.
Council members have gone back and forth about where the money should go if voters approve the tax, but they decided months ago to earmark the revenue for parks and recreation. During Tuesday’s discussion, council members Lisel Petis and Michael Buccino offered different ideas for where they would like to see the tax revenue directed.
“Right now, we are never, ever going to improve Howelsen Hill beyond the emergencies that are needed to keep it barely afloat without having a dedicated funding source,” council member Michael Buccino said. “It’s a place for our youth. We don’t have after-school football or after-school sports like some cities; we have after-school winter activities.”
When discussing the timing of the ballot question and whether or not the tax could win the support of voters, council member Heather Sloop said she believed too many people have dealt with financial struggles due to COVID-19 and would not vote in favor of another tax.
“I don’t discount the fact that there is a need for more money,” said Sloop, the only one of the seven council members to state she will not be supporting the tax. “I just don’t think this is the right timing for it, and I don’t think this is the right allocation for it.”
Part of Sloop’s reasoning, she said, was because the city saw higher sales tax numbers than projected in 2020 and so far in 2021. Other council members echoed that concern but doubled down on the point that city staff have argued for years: Sales tax is too unpredictable and, ultimately, is not enough to maintain the city’s high level of service.
“We just got a sales tax report showing an incredible April,” Petis said. “There’s a perception that we’re coming out way ahead, and that’s my concern about the perception of doing it this year.”
Petis also said she was concerned about asking voters to pass a property tax while Routt County is experiencing a large affordable housing crisis.
“The reality is, if we do put a property tax on, those housing prices do go up,” Petis said. “I think we’re maybe shooting ourselves in the foot if we go forward for parks and rec now.”
Council President Jason Lacy said he believes in order for voters to pass the measure, council should have close to unanimous consensus on the tax question with community groups publicly backing the idea.
“We need a community champion to get these across the finish line,” Lacy said.
Some council members disagreed with Lacy and said a council consensus may not matter to voters.
“We don’t want council members going off and running anti-campaigns, but at the same time, I’m not sure we’re going to get to seven of us thinking either of these is the 100% correct solution,” council member Sonja Macys said.
Council will vote on the first reading of the ballot language June 15.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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