Council says little about report

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City Council members had little discussion Tuesday night about the Tax Policy Advisory Board's final report.

Instead, council members said they would prefer to save their comments and take a more in-depth look at the issues during a retreat with the tax policy board in the next few months.

Council members praised the 12-member board for its work on the report and the recommendations made to keep a sales tax fully in place and to improve the city's financial and taxation decision process.

"I can see a number of recommendations that are very important that we need to work on sooner than later," Councilman Steve Ivancie said.

Tuesday night marked the end of 10 months of work by the tax policy board, which had been given the charge to examine the city's tax structure.

The board's final recommendation was to keep the city's tax structure and reliance on sales tax intact, a finding that even surprised many members of the board, co-chairman Jack Dysart said.

"It is safe to say, half the members came in with the preconceived notion 'My God, we really need to have a property tax,'" Dysart said.

"The reality is Steamboat is healthier than a lot of other communities and a lot of other tourist communities. The revenue source has been fairly stable, very predictable," he said.

After detailed case studies, the group found that switching a portion of sales tax on groceries and utilities for a property tax would only slightly benefit the lowest income bracket and negatively affect businesses.

A property tax also would put a larger tax burden on the residents of Steamboat Springs as opposed to a sales tax, to which visitors largely contribute.

"We were all surprised by the results, but that is the way it came out," Dysart said.

The tax board presented the council with a 110-page report that was part recommendation and part tutorial, Dysart said. The report gives explanations about the city's tax structure, displays analysis about possible revenue streams and makes comparisons to what other Colorado communities have done.

Board member Rich Tramaine asked that the council quickly look at implementing recommendations that involve timelines. The board recommended that community capital needs and community support funding requests be submitted to the city 90 days before the council budget meeting and 90 days before the midyear budget review.

The board also recommended that any policy that has significant financial or tax implications and goes before the voters should be submitted to the council for first reading at least 180 days before election.

In other business

n City Council President Paul Strong announced that the Bureau of Land Management's Washington, D.C., office has approved the notice of intent to begin the Emerald Mountain Land exchange process. The BLM hopes to hold a public meeting as soon as the third week of February and would like to have the exchange finished within a year.

n The City Council agreed to contribute $2,000 to customer satisfaction surveys at Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

n The council approved covering the Winter Carnival street events under its insurance policy even though the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association organizes the event. The council also agreed that a more in-depth discussion was needed about effects of covering community events on its insurance policy.

n The council approved changing a condition of approval for the Southside Station, allowing the owners to submit annual, rather than quarterly, groundwater reports to the Mount Werner Water District and the city.

n The council agreed to re-establish a committee to review an ordinance passed in 1987 that regulated traditional fireplaces in an effort to improve air conditions. Council members have expressed concerns that some residences are not in compliance with the ordinance and that the law could be updated.

n The council agreed to accept a $150,000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado to go toward an artificial turf field at Heritage Park. Council members said residents in the Heritage Park development had concerns about the lights that could go around the field and who would use the field.

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