Airline program push nets $275,000

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— More than $275,000 was collected from local businesses as a result of this month's drive to bolster funds for the ski-season jet program.

Sandy Evans Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, said Wednesday that about $145,000 came in during the final 30 hours of the drive. The deadline was Tuesday.

Evans Hall said the $275,000 combined with several other tentative sources of funds, makes the bid to raise $750,000 by Labor Day a realistic goal. The additional funding sources aren't a sure thing, but if they come through, the campaign would be about $42,000 short of its goal, she said.

"I feel real positive that we're getting close," Evans Hall said. "In the last four days we more than doubled (the contributions)."

The minimum contribution is $1,000, but most businesses are contributing more, Evans Hall said.

The money is being raised to offset a projected shortfall in the number of round-trip airline seats the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. says it can afford to contract for this ski season.

The ski area budgeted about $1 million last year to guarantee that commercial airlines would fly vacationing skiers into Yampa Valley Regional Airport. That money secured flights with about 150,000 round-trip seats, and about 100,000 passengers booked flights on the aircraft.

This year, the ski corp. says it has raised its budget to $1.4 million, but it still needs another $750,000 from the community, just to ensure this winter's airline program doesn't fall more than 11 percent behind last year's level.

In an effort to provide added incentive for local businesses to contribute to the "Transportation Support Fund," the ski area offered a $100 discount, from $300 to $200, on the deposit employers needed to pay by Aug. 15 to hold merchant ski passes for their employees. The employers allow their employees to pay off the balance through payroll deductions.

The incentive offered by the ski corporation this month also extended by two weeks (until Jan. 30) the time period employers and their employees have to pay off the balance of the ski passes.

Employers who have not made up their mind about the Transportation Support Fund, but have already made one or more deposits of $300 to hold merchant passes, can still qualify for the $100 discount retroactively. If they contribute to the fund by Sept. 15, they will be reimbursed, Evans Hall said.

Evans Hall said the $275,000 includes $147,000 that is part of $450,000 already pledged by the Steamboat Springs Lodging Committee. The lodging community contributed a similar amount to the jet program through a different "resort fee" last winter. The resort fee was discontinued in June, and Evans Hall speculated the amount collected thus far could be held in reserve as an airline contingency fund. This month's contributions were made by 10 different lodging establishments. The lodging committee is leaving it up to each property to determine its own contribution, Evans Hall said.

Subtracting the $147,000 from the $275,000 yields $128,0000 that came in from other kinds of business, including 50 businesses in the resort activity, construction, retail, restaurant and service sectors, Evans Hall said.

In addition to the $450,000 from the lodging community and the $128,000 that has come in from other businesses, Evans Hall is hopeful the city of Steamboat Springs will budget $90,000 for the airline program, as it did in 1999. Those three figures bring the total to $668,000.

Toward the balance of $82,000 needed to fund the airline program, Evans Hall expects to be able to apply $20,000 from a voluntary transaction fee funded by local Realtors, and another $20,000 the Steamboat Springs Restaurant Association has indicated it could contribute over and above individual member contributions. Those funds could come from the proceeds of the association's dining guide, Evans Hall said.

To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210 or e-mail tomross@amigo.net

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