Sales-tax increase proposed

Chamber plan would fund transportation, capital improvements

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— The board of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association will pitch a 1.5 percent sales-tax increase to City Council tonight that would raise approximately $4.3 million annually.

The proposal calls for 65 percent of the new revenues to go to funding both air and ground transportation in the valley. Another 25 percent (a little more than $1 million) would address the city's capital improvement needs and 10 percent would be dedicated to promoting overnight "visitation" or tourism.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 4:45 p.m. with an executive session involving City Attorney Tony Lettunich, followed immediately by the joint meeting between the chamber board and City Council in open session. The sales-tax increase could not be put in place without voter approval, and City Council is not expected to make a decision Tuesday about placing the proposal on the ballot. The tax is not proposed to be collected on the sale of groceries or utilities an effort to reduce the impact on local residents. The tax as proposed would sunset after eight years.

"We know that getting voter approval of this tax will not be easy by any means, but we feel that it's necessary to move forward, if we are to sustain our economic base and quality of life," Chamber Executive Vice President Sandy Evans-Hall said.

Evans-Hall said the proposal was created during many hours of work by a sub committee of the chamber board including Bob Milne, president of Steamboat Resorts, Steamboat Ski Area President Chris Diamond and First National Bank President John Kerst.

The committee also considered alternative forms of taxation to the additional sales tax, Evans-Hall said. It would raise about $606,000. A third would involve creating a business improvement district. One of the selling points the chamber board members will use to persuade City Council to agree to put the tax proposal on the ballot is the amount of money it would free up in the current city budget. In addition to raising approximately $1 million for capital improvements, it would raise about $567,000 annually for Steamboat Springs Transit.

The city could also free up about $300,000 currently appropriated to summer marketing in the community support budget.

Evans-Hall said the proposal as it stands is not being presented as a final document, but as a draft to elicit response from City Council.

The proposal is driven by a conviction that the resort community must find a more stable source of revenue than the business contributions that were solicited last year to help the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. augment its airline guarantee program, Evans-Hall said.

Without a stable funding source, it's difficult to establish long-term partnerships with the airlines. Evans-Hall emphasized that a portion of the transportation funding would be made available to the city transit system, as well as to the ski season jet program.

And, she said, the roughly $430,000 the tax would generate for promotion of over night visitation would be made available to community organizations like the Steamboat Springs Arts Council as well as to the chamber's marketing efforts.

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