Steamboat voters ground sales tax to support commercial air program

Supporter Kara Stoller checks Tuesday night’s 2A election results on her cell phone during a watch party at the Laundry restaurant. (Photo by John F. Russell)

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the final vote count.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The future of the air program that brings tourists to Steamboat Springs during the winter months is now in peril after voters defeated the sales tax.

The issue failed 3,679 votes to 3,347 votes.

“We’re good for this winter, but we’re obviously going to get into some serious discussions going forward,” Ski and Resort Corp. President Rob Perlman said. “All along, we’ve said if it doesn’t pass, we’ll have to make very difficult decisions. It doesn’t bode well for the air program.”

The referendum called for increasing the sales tax rate in the city of Steamboat Springs by 0.2 percent for the next 10 years. The tax would have generated an estimated $1.3 million annually.

Voters last approved the airline program tax at a rate of 0.25 percent in 2011. The tax expired in 2016, and supporters did not push to renew it immediately because there were adequate reserves to fund the air program for several years.

“That’s when we grew from seven to 15 direct flights,” Perlman said.

If the measure had passed, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. was going to increase their contribution to the airline program by 45 percent from $1.1 million to $1.6 million.

Perlman said that is no longer going to happen.

The sales tax would have been the third revenue source for the air program.

Visitors who stay at lodging properties currently pay a 2 percent tax, which goes to the air program as well.

Critics of the tax have said local lodging companies should contribute directly to the fund because they benefit financially. Currently, the companies collect the 2 percent tax from customers and then pass that along to support the air program.

Supporters of 2A were gathered at the Laundry restaurant when the initial election results came in.

“It’s definitely disappointing, and the impact will be felt a year from now when the flight schedule changes and the number of high-value guests that come to town, but it’s definitely not a hurdle that we can’t jump over,” said Kara Stoller, CEO of the Steamboat Springs Chamber.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

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