Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Steamboat Springs 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."