Steamboat Springs Chamber proposes alternatives to previous city tax discussions

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As Steamboat Springs City Council continues discussions on putting some form of tax on the November ballot to help pay for increasing demand on city services and offset the city’s heavy reliance on sales tax, others in the community are proposing solutions outside of those the city has previously discussed.

Steamboat Springs Chamber CEO Kara Stolle delivered an hour-long presentation to City Council on Tuesday in which she laid out various taxes she said all community groups could get behind.

“A collaborative approach is a really good path forward,” Stoller said.

Council members have discussed both a 5-mill property tax and a lift tax on single-day tickets at Steamboat Resort, but Stoller said neither option is very popular and may not earn voter approval.

“We feel that the business community will not support a 5-mill property tax, and the lift tax discussion is causing strife between the City Council and Ski Corp., a major employer and economic driver in our community,” Stoller said. “All these oppositions of major efforts from various entities doesn’t set us up for success.”

To solve council’s need for more funding and appease major community partners, Stoller proposed a series of other funding options, including a 2-mill property tax, a tax on timeshares in Steamboat, a 1% lodging tax for destination marketing, which Stoller said would directly benefit the lodging industry, and a potential lift tax for transportation to match sales tax in later years.

Stoller said she proposed a lower property tax than the 5-mills City Council has discussed and that it be designated specifically for the Howelsen Hill park complex, as Howelsen is most important to local residents, who would pay the property tax.

“It would set a path forward to ensure this asset is still here and thriving for the next generation,” Stoller said.

Several council members also expressed their support for a property tax being used to fund Howelsen.

“A property tax for Howelsen Hill makes a lot of sense, because we continually spend money on that, and I think that if we have a dedicated funding source, it has the potential of freeing up some money we’re already using from the general fund,” said council member Michael Buccino.

Other council members said they believed the property tax should more broadly support parks and recreation.

“If you’re going to earmark a property tax, it needs to be broader than the Howelsen Hill park complex,” said council member Heather Sloop.

Other council members said they appreciated Stoller’s suggestions, but they felt the suggestions revolved too heavily around business owners and Steamboat Resort.

“If the business community is willing to get behind a 2-mill property tax for the city, we can make good use of those 2 mills,” said council member Kathi Meyer. “But I don’t think it’s up to the Chamber or the business community to tell us as a City Council where that money should be used.”

Other council members expressed concern over the timeshare tax, as timeshare companies have powerful, national lobbyists.

“If we go forward with a timeshare tax, we will likely be seen around the world for it, so we want to be prepared,” said council member Lisel Petis.

Petis also said she was concerned about putting three taxes on the same ballot.

“We would need to provide a lot of education on that,” she added.

“We are never going to find the perfect answer that’s going to soothe everyone in the community on how we solve fiscal issues, but we really have to remember to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and there is a lot of good in this proposal,” Council President Jason Lacy said.

Council agreed to continue discussions on the tax proposals presented by Stoller.

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