Airport group mulls change

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The Yampa Valley Airport Commission will explore the pros and cons of a rural transportation authority.

The commission voted Thurs-day to ask city and county staff members to prepare a chart detailing the pluses and minuses of an authority. Under state law, an RTA could ask the voters for permission to levy taxes and would own the airports.

Gunnison Valley, Roaring Fork Valley and Colorado Springs have RTAs.

"The question is, do we see an advantage to de-politicizing the airports and having them owned by a single entity?" commissioner Ulrich Salzgeber asked.

The YVAC advises city and county government about management of the Steamboat Springs Airport and Yampa Valley Reg-ional Airport. However, it has no source of revenue and is only an advisory body.

Salzgeber said he sees an advantage to having both airports under single ownership.

Routt County owns YVRA, the only commercial aviation airport in the valley, and the city owns Steamboat Springs Airport, which is limited to general aviation.

A significant difference bet-ween the existing airport authority and an RTA is that the latter would enjoy autonomy from the city and county. That means it could own both the airports. With the permission of the voters, it also could raise taxes.

City Transit Director George Krawzoff said an RTA here potentially could levy as much as $5.2 million in revenue in Routt County alone. An RTA also has the ability to form a district that straddles county boundaries.

With voter approval, an RTA could, for example, levy as much as 1 percent of sales or use tax. A full percentage point of RTA sales tax could generate as much as $3.6 million in Routt County, Krawzoff calculated.

State law also allows an RTA to go to the voters to seek permission to collect as many as two points of "visitor benefit tax," essentially a lodging tax. A full visitor benefit tax here could generate as much as $1.3 million Krawzoff said.

It also could impose a registration fee on each motor vehicle registered in the district of as much as $10.

An RTA has no statutory authority to seek a property tax, Krawzoff said.

Often, RTAs fund ground transit as well as airline transportation, Krawzoff said. The City Council long has wished for a dedicated funding source for mass transit, Krawzoff said.

"You should be prepared to at least debate the possibility of including ground transportation," Krawzoff told.

Steamboat Springs City Coun--cilwoman Kathy Connell, also a member of the commission, said one of the charges of the commission from its inception has been to study the possibilities of moving toward an RTA.

Commission chairman Marty Kolonel disagreed with the idea that it is a formal goal of the commission to move toward an authority.

"It seems like it should be the elected bodies making this decision, not YVAC," Kolonel said.

County Commissioner Dan Ellison expressed doubt that airport management would be de-politicized, even under the ownership of an RTA.


-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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