Steamboat Springs For the first time in more than 20 years, city residents could see a portion of their property taxes go toward funding the city budget.
The City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance that would ask voters in November to approve mill levies for fire protection and Howelsen Hill funding. The two mill levies could raise property taxes by more than $200 for the average homeowner.
Although the council unanimously agreed to ask voters for a 5 mill levy for fire protection, it debated if adding 2.8 mills for Howelsen Hill funding would overwhelm the voters come November.
"I think we are going to overload the voters. I am not saying voters can't understand all this, I think that they can. But when it gets to be an overloaded ballot, that is where it presents the challenge to get anything passed," Councilman Paul Strong said.
Strong, along with Council President Kathy Connell, said they would pass the first reading of the ordinance for a mill levy for Howelsen Hill but might reconsider the decision on the second reading.
Nancy Kramer and Arianthe Stettner both opposed the Howelsen Hill ordinance. Stettner noted additional funding for Howelsen Hill could come from the money received through its tax enterprise zone designation.
The council members have stated the need to reintroduced property taxes to the city revenue stream is to provide what they say is much-needed capital improvements. And Councilman Loui Antonucci said both mill levies are needed to provide those improvements, and he does not want to ask the voters every few years to pass taxes.
"This is what we need and this is how we are going to get there," Antonucci said. "We need to be upfront, get it on the table and educate people on what we are doing."
With the proposed 5 mill levy increase for fire protection, homeowners with a house assessed at $300,000 would see a $137.25 increase in their property tax bill under current tax figures. Under the same numbers, a 2.8 mill levy would mean a $72 increase.
But City Finance Director Don Taylor said that amount would change next year when the city's total assessed property value is changed and the state changes the percentage it taxes residencies.
The 5 mill levy for the Fire Safety Tax would generate about $1.9 million annually. Although the fire and ambulance departments would still be funded even if the voters denied a mill levy, city staff has said the tax would allow these services to be fully funded and avoid competition with other departments during tight budget years.
The 2.8 mill levy for the Howelsen Hill Complex would cover the costs and expenses needed for personnel, capital costs, debt service, training, equipment and all other funding required for providing, maintaining and operating the facilities. Those facilities would include those used for skiing, ski jumping, Nordic skiing, multi-use athletic fields, rodeo facilities and the ice arena.