Budget, taxes top discussions

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— Post election 2001, the city's decisions aren't getting any easier.

The new City Council sat down for a retreat Friday and learned quickly that they will be making a lot of tough calls and not holding many ribbon-cuttings in the coming year.

The $22.2 million budget the council will be asked to vote on next week has no excess expenditures the city could cut easily, city staff members say.

The solutions to the projected budget shortfall, after the council has already attempted to cut or defer millions of dollars in capital projects, may take some creative thinking.

"There's nothing unusual about us," City Manager Paul Hughes said of the city's finances. "There's no anomaly that if we changed it, everything would be perfect."

Implementing ideas such as a new property tax may be easier to discuss in concept during an election campaign than to put in practice afterwards, council members found Friday.

Despite the city's need to diversify revenue sources, Councilman Loui Antonucci said he thinks the council ought to be very careful before proposing any new taxes.

"If we're going to try to pass a new tax we need to convince people we're already doing everything we can," Antonucci said.

Antonucci went on to say that he thinks new taxes could make an already tough economy even tougher for locals.

"So much of the population is so close to not being able to live here," he said.

Not everyone agreed, however. Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner said she thinks the council needs a property tax because it is not tapping into a revenue source it could be utilizing.

"The people who have second homes or third homes who aren't here that often, even though we still have the infrastructure, aren't paying for city services when they're not here," she said.

The city is not getting revenue it could be getting from wealthy second home-owners who may not be here for much of the year but use city services, she said.

Fifty-five percent of the homes in Steamboat are owned by people with addresses outside of Steamboat, Hughes said.

The city of Steamboat Springs is one of only eight cities and towns in Colorado without a property tax. It may propose one for the ballot next year.

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