Steamboat Springs Faced with an uncertain financial future after the failure of a ballot question this fall, the Downtown Steamboat Springs Business Improvement District and Mainstreet Steamboat Springs are planning to go back to voters in 2008.
The business improvement district was founded to fund marketing, advocacy, parking management and beautification projects in the downtown core, but it lacks its own source of funding. Its current efforts have been intertwined with downtown business advocacy efforts from Mainstreet, which lacks a dedicated revenue stream past next year.
"We have the district, we just don't have the funding," Mainstreet executive director Tracy Barnett said.
A property tax increase for the business improvement district was defeated by only six votes in a Nov. 6 special election. Voting was open only to those living within the district's designated boundaries - between Yampa and Oak streets from Second to 13th streets - and was carried out in a special election with ballots separate from those in Steamboat Springs and the rest of Routt County.
"We were so close last time," business improvement district board chairman Bill Moser said. "It was agonizingly close."
The 2.5 mill levy property tax increase would have provided an estimated $120,000 a year - funds that would have provided a clear financial future not just for the business improvement district, but also for the ongoing efforts of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs.
When Mainstreet Steamboat Springs was first formed, the city committed to providing it with three years of funding. However, those funds will see Mainstreet and the business improvement district only through the end of 2008, and whether the city will continue to contribute in the future is unknown.
With nearly a year before the measure can be put back on the ballot, the downtown business community has plenty of time for research and outreach. Focus groups will be held early next year to determine not only what voters residing within the business improvement district most want to see, but also what would be most beneficial for the downtown community.
"It's a complicated sell for a number of reasons," Moser said. "To explain what Mainstreet does in and of itself is complicated, because it has so many different facets and is practically like a business on its own."
The balloting process could be easier for voters in 2008. In November, voters living within the district had to request a mail-in ballot specific to the measure. The totals also were tabulated by an election judge in Denver - a move advised to Mainstreet because neither city nor county election officials had any experience with this type of special election.
"I've talked to more than six people who said they would've voted if it had been a little simpler," Barnett said. "People didn't want to go through the hassle."
Leading up to the November 2008 election, Mainstreet and the business improvement district will put a much greater focus on education efforts and appeal to voters by emphasizing tangible results that the taxes can bring to downtown, Barnett said.
"They're looking for tangible services, not just advocacy," she said. "When people think of BIDs, they think about tangible objects like trash cans, benches and parking garages."
Some of the more visible services the business improvement district would aim to provide could include more frequent trash collection and sidewalk snow removal, she said.
These "tangibles" are only a jumping off point for the greater mission of the business improvement district, which is to maintain the long-term vitality of the downtown area and to prevent it from becoming the "poor second cousin" of the mountain as the base area undergoes redevelopment, Moser said.