Mike Lawrence: No tax hike for rec center?

Debate about $34 million facility gets a twist


Mike Lawrence

Call Mike Lawrence at 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com.

— The city could fund a proposed $34 million recreation center without raising taxes.

"In a very general fashion, that is possible," City Manager Alan Lanning said Tuesday. "It's a new concept, but it is on the table."

Yes, you read that right. But go over it again if you want.

The Ski Town Fields facility that will appear on November's ballot after years of public debate and community surveys may not require a tax increase. Lanning said the city has not yet submitted language for the recreation center ballot question. While the Steamboat Springs City Council voted in July to place the center before Steamboat voters on Nov. 6, the council still needs to decide how the center should be funded - with a new property tax, sales tax, or both. The council also needs to decide how much of a tax increase to ask for.

But the answer, surprisingly, could be none.

Lanning said that during financial discussions last month with consultant Alan Matlosz of the George K. Baum investment company, Matlosz said the city's current funds, especially given increasing sales tax revenues, could finance a $34 million recreation center with no new taxes.


"I wouldn't say at this point that it's a given that we could fund this without raising taxes," Lanning said. "But it has been brought up as a possibility given what Alan Matlosz knew at the time."

The catch is that should the city decide to fund the center and its ongoing operating costs with existing city revenues, it would mean something else would have to get cut from the budget.

"It certainly would make it easier to pass, if you're not asking people to pay extra for it, but people would be losing out on something else that could have happened otherwise," City Councilman Paul Strong said. "That would reduce any future capital improvements that could happen in the city."

Strong and Lanning acknowledged that if the funding was done without a tax increase, approving the recreation center could occur without a vote.

"Potentially, it could go without being on the ballot if it doesn't need new taxes," Lanning said.

Strong strongly disagreed with that idea.

"I think anything that's a $34 million project should go to a vote, regardless," he said. "We can't make long-term financial commitments without voter approval."

But as the City Council works in coming weeks to hammer out a ballot issue, the idea that no new taxes could be needed is changing the conversation.

"That was new information that we got from Alan Matlosz, that none of us had even considered," Lanning said. "There's an awful lot to think about and a very short period of time. We have to have that discussion very soon."


Tom Whiddon 9 years, 7 months ago

Building a rec center without raising taxes means no money to fix the streets, no money to fix the water main, no money to fix the sewage plant, no money to put out the fire and no money to fix the traffic problem. The only way is to raise taxes. They are asking 34 million for the rec center. Is that their final figure? What does it cost to staff and maintain such a facility? What will it cost you to use it? Vote no in November!


beentheredonethat 9 years, 7 months ago

Vote no. The interest group promoting the rec center has yet to come forward with the costs of operating and staffing the facility. Is there something to hide?


addlip2U 9 years, 7 months ago

I have yet to see a justification for this facility.

It is just a wish list that a small special interest group is pushing forward only to become a (tax) burden on all of us.


addlip2U 9 years, 7 months ago

I respectfully disagree with your statement:

"This isn't only what a "small interest group" wants. It's what study after study, and survey after survey since 1999 has shown that the community wants and needs."

I have yet to participate in the survey, nor met anyone that has. When asked the consultant about the survey, how their data were collected, the consultant indicated, in one of this year presentation, that the data was based on a phone survey of around 300 participants. This was a telephone survey! Hello, was your child at home answering the phone?

Can we burden the taxpayers with $34 million expenditure on such a small (credible?) population representation?

Suggest that the "small interest group" fund and built such facilities and run it as a for profit business.

Have you surveyed the private health/fitness companies in Steamboat? They filled the gap they felt was missing and you can fill the one you feel is so desperately needed too.

Competition is healthy!


jeannie berger 9 years, 7 months ago

I was one of the 300 surveyed. The whole survey was about cost and which rec center options I would choose verses the cost for such options. Not one question gave me the option to say I didn't want a rec center built. So the survey was not about what the people wanted it was about which options they thought were important in a rec center and how much they would be willing to pay for such options. Personally I would never use it. I moved here in 1978 to enjoy the outdoors and the activities the mountains offered, none of which can be found inside a rec center.


mfishon1 9 years, 7 months ago

The scary part of this article is the quote "approving the recreation center could occur without a vote." For those of you who often wonder how your local/state/fed governments GROW out of control...here is your answer. The gov stumbles upon some extra $$$..a tiny local "squeaky wheel" group of people say we "want" this new toy...the politicians then ask some out of town expert consultants how to spend it...and BAM...the tax burden has once again been cemented upon the people without any hope of ever lowering taxes.

I beg of the city council to force this issue to go to vote. Please let the people decide if this is a prudent use of tax payer money...especially given the fact that if you actually want to use the facility you will have to pay again at the door!


katrinkakelly 9 years, 7 months ago

Paradise found, I love our "wild"erness all year long. I will still pay for an indoor swim in the dead of winter.


mfishon1 9 years, 7 months ago

BoulderGrad...my point exactly...the usage of the facility is NOT free to locals. You will have to pay one way or the other...either "at the door" per use or you will have to buy some type of monthly/yearly pass.

This is one of my main problems with any type of public facility that uses tax payer money....if the public as a majority votes for a given tax payer funded project then it should be free/equal access to all locals. Public parks/trails/playgrounds/library/schools, etc....these are good use of tax payer money because everyone has free/equal access considering that practicially everyone (one way or the other) is contributing to the tax base to fund these projects. However, these types of $$ million dollar tax payer projects that only serve the people who can AFFORD the fee/membership to use them are FAR BETTER left to a private venture to take on....let the private market bare the risk/responsibility/staffing/overhead, etc.

Here is the message this gives to the families out there who currently can't afford a home here...."Dear struggling families - we realize you can afford housing here and definitely don't have any extra money to buy a membership fee to our new rec center; however, we do thank you for allowing us to use some of your tax money to build/run this facility so that other kids will get a chance to become the first olympic swimmer from Steamboat."


mfishon1 9 years, 7 months ago

correction to last post. It should read 'Dear struggling families - we realize you CANNOT afford housing here..."


mfishon1 9 years, 7 months ago

to set my record straight....I would love a nice rec center...I just don't like it when local gov gets in this business. If this is such a great idea that tons of locals will be knocking down the doors to pay/use it then leave this to the private market. If this were the case then with the amount of private ventures that are throwing money at every possible development idea that pops up then they should be crawling over each other to get in line for this oppurtunity. However, I suspect the reason the private market wants nothing to do with this is because the ROI is dead in water for these "rec center" money pits.

Another thing that justs rubs me wrong is out of one ear I hear the city council trying to solve the affordable housing dilema (i.e. they are LOOKING FOR MONEY, etc.) and then out of my other ear I hear this talk about sucking up tax revenues to fund a rec center....a center that only some people will be able to afford but will be paid for by all. Who are we kidding here...if the city is truly concerned about the working people in this city that are barely getting by then lets do something about it....that does not mean find new ways to SPEND tax money on "nice to have" items. Build a new rec center means hire even more city staff (in addition to the growth proposed in the paper today) to just keep on inflating our local government.

The next city council rep I vote for is the one who says I'm going to vote on the council as if I were running a private business that is about to go bankrupt...LEAN and MEAN philsophy. This town is punch drunk on spending...for that we have only ourselves (the voters) to blame because in the last few years it seems we just can't turn down any new proposed project. That it why even though I will vote against the rec center I do believe it has a good chance of passing because the voters hear love to drink the "oh-boy a new building" koolaid.


addlip2U 9 years, 7 months ago

Oh so this is not about having a Rec Center.
It is all about having and indoor pool. Indoor pools are noisy, smelly, cold and clammy, have problems with mildew, hard to keep germ clean, etc. Very impersonal and unpleasant place to hang around.

Let's be realistic. This rec facility is driven by parents that have children on a competitive swim team. They would like to be able to have swim practice (rightfully so) in off season and also to hold swim meets in town rather than traveling out of Steamboat. This pool belongs and should to be built adjacent to one of our public schools. The pool would not cost $34 millions.

It is know that swimming pools do not generate enough income to brake even let alone to generate profit.

Anyone noticed the one in Craig is closing? Why?


dave mcirvin 9 years, 7 months ago

Very well said amongst the many postings listed above. Routt county is endogenously a year round rec center. Places like Denver don't have the climate nor our natural facilities. One might want to move their family closer to Denver if your child is deemed to be next spice girl spouse or the next Ian Thorpe.

There is a reason why Jamaica has both impressive track athletes and tongue n' cheek bobsled teams. If you want your child to emulate folks like Todd Lodwick then you may want to hang around here. Besides the orthopods in town, a very select minority will benefit by indoor soccer and the year round swimming facilities. Just cause one can build it doesn't mean it is right nor does it mean the public should fund it. Heck, we could have outbid Intrawest-Fortress for the mountain.


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