Tax group makes recommendations

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— The recommendation the city's Tax Policy Advisory Board is sending to the City Council will not address the proposed lodging tax, but group members did at Thursday's meeting.

The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, the lodging community and the Steamboat Ski Corp. are proposing a 2 percent lodging tax that would raise about $1.2 million per year for airline flight guarantees.

On Tuesday, the council will be asked to approve the tax proposal. It then will go before voters in November. The tax group is forwarding to the council work it has done on overall tax policy that it thinks applies to the proposed lodging tax.

In its recommendations to the council, the group listed four policy suggestions:

n To limit the proliferation of government entities, bureaucracies, duplication of administrative costs and tasks, the loss of control by elected officials and the loss of oversight by electors.

n To require any ballot issues with significant tax implications to come before the council at least 120 days before the election.

n To require the whole community to vote on ballot issues with tax or financial implications for the whole community.

n To clarify city policy, stating the city has embraced a community role that goes beyond the conventional city services.

"We want to be able to have a situation that will stand for the next 10 to 15 years, because I don't think we will get another group of citizens that will want to do this again," Ken Solomon said.

Group members weighed in on the tax after Chamber Executive Vice President Sandy Evans Hall made one more case for why the lodging tax is critical to the community.

She said that pledges for flight guarantees from local businesses were down significantly in the past few years and said that if more funding doesn't come, the community could be at risk of losing its summer flight and dropping a winter flight.

Those numbers point to a need for a stable source of revenue for funding the community's air program.

"We are in a critical situation, and there is a strong need for this," Evans Hall said. "We worked long and hard to come up with a solution. It is not a special-interest group. It benefits the entire community."

Group member Audrey Enever said she did not object to how the money was going to be used, but the methodology in which it is proposed.

The tax proposal is to form a local marketing district in which most of the city's nightly lodging properties would be taxed. The boundaries snake through the mountain and downtown areas and would include about 600 registered voters.

Under the proposal, the City Council approves the district's taxing plan, appoints and removes members of the board and can dissolve the district at any time.

The lodging committee brought the proposal in front of the City Council on Aug. 17, giving the group just two meetings before the deadline to get items on the November ballot.

Enever told Evans Hall that long before the lodging tax proposal, the tax policy group had discussed the dangers in the proliferation of boards and different taxing entities. Enever also commented on the lateness in the proposal.

Group member Wade Gebhardt said the group wasn't challenging the proposal for how the money would be used.

"You are not the only ones looking to form a special district that has some revenue implications for the city," Gebhardt said. "Basically, it will encourage more and more of these types of entities."

Members also disapproved of the proposal to not take the vote to the entire city. Enever said she would be supportive of the tax if it included the entire city. A tax that residents don't have to pay for should be a slam-dunk, she said.

"If you can't market that to this community, there is something wrong with your marketing people," Enever said.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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