Steamboat Springs An excise tax is emerging as the most viable alternative to replace the city-imposed impact fees.
Members of a citizens group were charged with the task of finding an alternative for impact fees that could generate as much revenue and be approved by voters in November's election. So far, the group has focused on an excise tax that would levy a tax on each square foot of new construction.
"At the beginning of our discussions it would appear the one other choice to impact fees would be an excise tax," said Anthony Vaida, chair of the Impact Fee Committee. "We'll continue to work on the excise tax and compare it to the impact fee system."
The Impact Fee Committee which was formed in May and comprised of developers, a Realtor, transportation expert, financial worker and community members has held just two meetings. But the group is under some time pressure. July 9 is the last day the City Council could put an alternative tax on the ballot.
The citizens group is the latest twist in the city's efforts to force growth to pay for itself.
The original impact fee was passed June 19, 2001 and was charged on all new development. It cost the builder of a new single-family home $4,454. That ordinance was replaced by a second one in November that exempted affordable housing and lowered the cost for a single-family home to about $4,000.
Since the second impact fee ordinance was enacted, city Finance Director Don Taylor said $69,000 has been collected.
Unlike an excise tax, the city's impact fee is levied on a per-unit basis, which means regardless of size, owners of a single-family house will pay the same.
City Councilman Bud Romberg, who sits on the committee, said that seemed like a fair way to generate funds for growth because a family of four would have the same impact on the community regardless of how big their house is.
"If there is the same number of people in the same two houses, they have the same impact when they are going to use the roads," Romberg said.
But the impact fee did not require approval by voters, something the excise tax would. Instead, Romberg said, the city had to set clear guidelines on where the funds would go and was restricted to just capital improvements.
An excise tax would not have those guidelines and could be put into the general operating fund.
While Vaida said that the excise tax is the leading choice, other options include property taxes and user fees.
Vaida said the committee also could recommend that council keep the current fees in place.
Vaida said that developers are already expected to pay a high price for increased growth and an excise tax, as an impact fee would, is an added expense.
"The expansion of water, sewer, roads, drainage, environmental system and credits for open space all these things are already part of (the development plan). Vaida said.
"This would be on top of that."
Even if the committee would come before council with an excise tax to repeal impact fees, the recommendation would need to be approved by a first and second reading of an ordinance before going on the ballot.