Chamber members say they want to see capital improvements that would improve business in Steamboat Springs before they give their support to the city's proposed property tax.
The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association Executive Board met with the City Council on Tuesday. The groups talked about the proposed property tax to fund fire and ambulance services, which, if approved by voters, would free up more than $1.3 million in the city's budget. The city has said it would use those funds for capital improvements.
Scott Ford, president of the chamber's Economic Develop-ment Council, said the proposed 3.55-mill property tax places a much larger burden on commercial properties than residential ones. The Gallagher Amendment forces commercial owners to pay more than three-and-half times what residential owners pay.
Businesses are constrained by what they can charge for goods, Ford said, so the only way to cover the cost of the tax is to pass it on to employees -- eliminating raises or bonuses, for example -- or ask the city to find a way to use its revenue to bring businesses more revenue.
Businesses want to see the tangible benefits that would come with the tax, Ford said, such as more ball fields, improvements to Ski Time Square or added amenities.
Chuck Porter, manager of the Sheraton Steamboat Resort, said the hotel would have to generate $160,000 more in revenue to cover the cost of the property tax.
"With no new revenue, it is hard to be supportive (of the tax)," Porter said. "The Gallagher Amendment places us at odds with that."
City Manager Paul Hughes said the city's main priority is being a good city, which means taking care of the less-than-flashy capital improvement projects, such as paving roads and burying utilities.
"There are a lot of items in the capital improvement list that are really unsexy items, but all of them are important for us to be a very good city," Hughes said.
City Council Pro Tempore Paul Strong apologized to chamber members for having a capital improvement plan that did not have as many projects with direct benefits to businesses as the group would have liked. But he said there were items such as improving trails, creating open space, funding the airport and renovating Ski Time Square that would be beneficial to businesses.
"I do think there are things in there that do help the business community," Strong said.
After listening to the council discuss what capital improvements it would like to fund, chamber executive vice president Sandy Evans-Hall said she was hoping more would benefit commercial owners.
She asked if the city would be willing to buy urban open space, such as Tennis Meadows, that could be used for hosting the Balloon Rodeo, concerts and other events that bring visitors to the city.
Evans-Hall also questioned whether the council had put money toward ball-field improvements and funding for new ball fields, which is part of its contract agreement with Triple Crown. Chris Wilson, city director of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services, said the city had $90,000 a year tagged for field improvements and $50,000 a year could go for new ball fields if the property tax is passed.
Strong cautioned the council against adding more money to the budget for ball fields.
"I know the business community would certainly like to see ball fields included, but speaking strictly as a politician, there is a good chance of dooming the property tax because (perception will be that) this property tax is for growth, it is for tourists and it is not for the (local) population," Strong said.
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