Lodging group volunteers for tax

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— The Steamboat Springs lodging community has agreed to impose upon itself a 2-percent accommodation tax, 1 percent of which would go toward supporting a year-round flight program.

City Councilwoman Kathy Connell made the announcement at Tuesday night's City Council meeting and said the lodging community will be coming before the Tax Policy Advisory Committee to present the plan and ask for the city's support.

The decision was made unanimously at a lodging committee meeting Tuesday, Connell said, and is something the group has worked on for months. The committee also has worked with the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. on the proposal, Connell said.

"The important thing (is) the lodging community has unanimously said they want to find a way to permanently support, on the city side, air traffic year-round," she said.

The lodging community, along with other businesses in town, is part of a voluntary air program that provides funding to promote tourism to Steamboat via the Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

The accommodation tax, set now at 1 percent, generated $615,000 last year.

Approved by voters in 1986, the 1-percent accommodation tax is designated for above ground city amenities to promote tourism.

Since the mid-1990s, the accommodation tax has been used solely to pay off the $4.9 million debt of building the Haymaker Golf Course and for other golf course needs. Before its dedication to the golf course, the accommodation tax was used to build the tennis bubble.

To increase the accommodation tax to 2 percent would need voter approval. The group plans to come before the Tax Policy Advisory Committee, which is reviewing the city's tax structure, and then to the council by late June or early July, Connell said.

The lodging committee is ironing out the details of the proposal, Connell said.

To get a tax increase on the November ballot, the council would have to approve the initiative by September.

Connell told the council Tuesday that dedicating 1 percent of the lodging tax to air programs would create a permanent funding source for those programs and help stabilize the economy.

Through the existing Fly Steamboat program, lodging businesses voluntarily ask visitors to pay a fee to support air programs and then visitors can decided whether they want to pay.

"The problem with a voluntary program (is if) you don't have fairness, you don't have consistency," Connell said. "A tax is much more equitable and fair, and it is permanent."

The lodging committee has not been the only group to look at increasing the lodging tax. As the city is taking a hard look at its tax structure, the option of having a lodging tax increase has been proposed by council members and residents.

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