YVRA request for funds nixed

Council turns down option to help airport projects

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— Steamboat Springs City Council flatly turned down Tuesday night a request for $100,000 from Routt County to help fund upcoming capital projects at Yampa Valley Regional Airport near Hayden.

County Aviation Director Jim Parker, at the direction of the county commissioners, sought the contribution in a letter to City Manager Paul Hughes. Parker pointed out in his letter that 80 percent of the destination skiers coming to Steamboat go through the airport, representing a significant source of sales-tax revenue to the city.

"I'm sure that you would agree that the city of Steamboat Springs benefits financially from the tourists who fly into Yampa Valley Regional," Parker wrote.

Parker further pointed out that other government entities in northwestern Colorado have sent cash contributions to the county to help defray the cost of the airport, while the city, he said, has not.

"Historically, Moffat County, the city of Craig and the town of Hayden have contributed funds annually for operations and capital improvements at Yampa Valley Regional, although the airport has been less of a financial benefit to them than it has been to Steamboat Springs," Parker wrote.

City officials countered that their citizens make a greater contribution to the county's airport, than the county commissioners are giving them credit for.

Hughes told City Council the county must have overlooked the fact that the city already spends $597,000 annually out of its general fund to subsidize its own airport. And that it currently contributes $90,000 to a ski-season airline subsidy program, representing a "vital piece," of the traffic at Yampa Valley Regional.

"I have no idea where I would find $100,000 to give to the county's airport," Hughes said.

Hughes pointed out that taxes paid on property in the city of Steamboat Springs represent 54 percent of the county's total property tax revenues, and sales taxes collected in Steamboat through the county's 1 percent sales tax represent 77 percent of the county's total.

"One could argue indeed, that 62 percent of whatever subsidy," the county makes to its airport, comes from the city of Steamboat Springs, Hughes said.

City Council President Kevin Bennett agreed with Hughes, and said he is concerned by what he perceives to be an attitude in county government that county revenues being spent on the citizens of Steamboat Springs aren't being spent for the benefit of the county.

"Occasionally spending some dollars on the people who generate the money isn't a bad thing," Bennett said. "The county has $17 million in reserves generating $1.1 million in interest revenue. The engine that drove that was the 1 percent sales tax. Seventy-seven percent of it comes out of the six miles known as Steamboat Springs. If once in awhile, some of that money finds it's way back here I personally think it's a good thing."

Councilwoman Kathy Connell moved, and Councilman Ken Brenner seconded a motion to respond to Parker with a letter saying the city is unable to contribute to YVRA "at this time."

The council members will have a chance to express their thoughts in person today, when they're scheduled to have lunch with the commissioners at noon at the courthouse.

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