Van Fletcher: No to raising taxes

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As I understand it, the city government has asked voters to approve a city property tax -- not once but twice -- in past elections. Both times, the voters turned down the requests. Some voters remembered the city promised not to promote a property tax if voters approved an additional sales tax in the early 1990s. Now, the city has formed a committee to help determine how they can obtain more revenue or reintroduce a city property tax again.

Interestingly, we read in the newspaper that Noreen Moore, in February's Boat Biz, reports that "Steamboat's sales tax revenue has climbed 10 percent over the past four ski seasons, according to the Denver Post research." These were recession years. The Steamboat Today reported in January 2004 "a record-setting December for sales tax revenue ... with a 6 percent increase over last year." And a 0.79 percent increase from last year for the full year of 2003. City-reported sales-tax revenues in the Pilot on March 14 suggested revenues were down 2.3 percent for the past year -- not an unexpected decrease. They Yampa Valley Regional Airport reported its second-busiest February in five years -- not bad for a year when a three-year recession was just beginning to make a recovery.

The city still gives $450,000 (down from $750,000) to the Chamber of Commerce each year. This year, it agreed to give the chamber $75,000 for special events and $100,000 for a flight-guarantee promotion campaign. Last week, the recreational services director requested $4 million to build a new clubhouse at the Haymaker Golf Course. He considers the "$4 million price tag to be appropriate for the amount of square footage." The square footage is 12,600 square feet. That's $317 per square foot. Some would say that is excessive with most building costs at $200 or less per square foot.

The typical voter has seen increases in his county property tax, electric and natural gas bills, auto gas prices, groceries, housing and nearly all other commodities. Wages have not shown increases with the average worker making a little more than $24,000 a year, according to the past census. The city government and the volunteer committee need to keep in mind the taxpayers are having a difficult time financially. Workers have almost no way to increase their incomes except to have more than one job. Just having a job has become a major priority for some. To raise more taxes is not an alternative that is justified at this time. To cut spending to outside private organizations, recreation and services aimed at the tourist industry should be a priority at this time.

Van Fletcher

Steamboat Springs

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