Tax committee reports its progress

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A tax policy committee appointed by the city has uncovered potential revenue sources and investigated "pink elephants" but isn't ready to make any recommendations to the Steamboat Springs City Council.

Co-chairman Jack Dysart came before the council Tuesday night with an update on the committee's progress. When the committee was formed in March, the council had hoped to have a recommendation by the end of June.

"They would like to have something (by) early summer, but I don't see it happening at the rate we are going. Maybe mid-summer or late summer," Dysart said.

The tax policy group has been busy creating an easy-to-read financial statement of the city's budget, looking at alternative revenue sources, examining city facilities that may be perceived as revenue drains and doing case studies.

"It's like peeling an onion -- there is another layer," Dysart said.

At today's meeting, the tax committee plans to refine a list of possible new city revenue sources. That list includes personal property tax, real property tax for residential, commercial, agricultural, vacant and industrial property, admission tax, occupational tax and liquor tax.

"We want to narrow the focus and get some of the billiards off the table," Dysart said.

The tax committee also plans to do case studies on the sources of revenue it chooses.

"We want to do case studies on who it would effect, who pays for it, who would get hurt by it," Dysart said.

One preliminary case study has been done on the impact of replacing grocery and utility sales taxes with a property tax. The results showed that the majority of residential households would benefit from the exchange.

The study needs work, Dysart said, and the assumptions taken in the study need to be refined to better understand the impact on businesses.

The committee also has been gathering data from other towns.

"We are gathering and looking at comparative tax rates, sales tax, accommodation tax to see how we stack up," Dysart said. "We are also looking at resort areas and ski areas. They tend to look at revenue sources differently."

The other charge of the committee was to look at the expenditures of the city. The committee is attempting to tackle some of the city's perceived pink elephants -- city assets that could be operating at a loss.

The group has discovered that the Haymaker Golf Course is not one of those pink elephants, noting that golf revenues more than cover operating expenses. The funding for the construction of the golf course is through a voter approved accommodation tax.

The committee is being asked to comment on some of the more recently proposed community financing projects. In the next few weeks, the group will hear presentations from David Ballinger Jr. on redeveloping the base of the ski area, from Steve Dawes on a increasing the accommodation tax from the lodging community, and from the Yampa Valley Regional Airport Commission's study on the Steamboat Springs Airport.

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