Marketing district approved

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Voters approved a local marketing district and a 2 percent accommodation tax to support air flight programs by a 258-171 vote.

About 600 people inside the boundaries of the LMD were the only residents to vote on the tax, which is expected to raise about $1.2 million a year to help guarantee airline flights. The funding, which will start being collected May 1, will replace a volunteer program by local lodging businesses.

"The volunteer program has run its course," lodging community advocate Steve Dawes said. "(The LMD) was the best proposal we could come up with, and I think the voters agreed it made sense to them."

The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, the lodging community and the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. joined to propose the LMD and asked the Steamboat Springs City Council to put it on the 2004 ballot.

Supporters have said the money would stabilize the money the community uses to secure flights into the Yampa Valley Regional Airport. Those flights are crucial to bringing visitors to Steamboat Springs and supporting the economy.

"I am certainly delighted that the voters have approved the idea of a marketing district and accepted a 2 percent lodging tax to fund and stabilize air services," Dawes said.

LMD proponents did an informational campaign, sending eligible registered voters direct mailings and calling them, Dawes said. The boundaries of the LMD encompass and tax most of the city's nightly lodging properties. The boundaries snake through the mountain and downtown areas and includes very few residential areas.

Early or absentee ballots accounted for 173 votes for and 104 votes against the ballot issue.

The chamber currently collects money for its air flight programs from the lodging community, restaurants, retail stores and other businesses on a voluntary basis. The money is used to negotiate contracts with airlines to ensure flights are available to Steamboat Springs from major markets across the country.

The LMD assures for at least the next five years, the Ski Corp. will continue its annual support of airline guarantees at levels comparable to what it has contributed in the past five years. Ski Corp. will match funds generated by the LMD dollar for dollar with a cap at $1.25 million, or 60 percent of the cost of the airline program, whichever is less.

The passage of the LMD frees up $100,000 the city has given to flight programs in the past years. If the tax had not passed, almost none of the nonprofit organizations which have asked the city for community support funding would have received increases during the past year and any new events would have been given dramatically less than what they requested.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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