Van Fletcher: A strange matter

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There's something strange about the recreation center issue. First, the City Council voted unanimously to put the issue on the ballot and has funded studies and consultants ($62,018). Second, the City Council is offering free land for the center. Third, the possibility of putting a nonprofit (Old Town Hot Springs) out of business is being dismissed. What is not being discussed is that the recreation center will be financed by a new city property tax.

The city is funded predominantly by the city sales tax. Back in the early 1990s, the city wanted more sales tax. The citizens were told if they supported an increase in sales tax, the city would never impose a city property tax. Taxpayers supported an increase in sales tax. It seems politicians and others quickly forget past promises.

The new property tax will finance the recreation center ($34 million) and the future maintenance ($455,500) and would be increased by additional amounts in later years. Early estimates suggest the actual cost for the center will be more than $67 million by the time the bonds are paid off.

On May 21, 2006, in a Steamboat Pilot & Today article, a "three core" plan was revealed that stated the cost of the recreation center would be $48.8 million with annual operating costs totaling $1.4 million. The consultants, Ballard and Barnard, said, "Operating the center will come at a high cost : and would make sense for the city to do so using tax dollars."

The "Election Guide 2007" distributed with the Steamboat Today last Friday says the maintenance cost would be funded by a 0.7 mill increase and a mill increase between 4 and 5 mills for the center. And this will represent 40 percent of the city's budget. In addition, taxpayers would pay a users fee, or membership fee, annually. You'll be paying twice for artificial turf fields, covered pool, indoor track and playgrounds that are not now available.

Keep in mind, if you vote for the recreation center, you will be voting to impose a first-ever new city property tax. If Referendums 2B and 2C pass, it will open the door for the city to fund future expenditures using the property tax.

Van Fletcher

Steamboat Springs

Comments

Neil O'Keeffe 9 years, 5 months ago

Well put, as our economy is obviously being fueled by real estate specualation and construction what will happpen to all of these trade jobs once the boom slows-stops? This is inevitable, will people continue to move here for work opportunities, what is the next boom industry? Plenty of jobs will be needed to maintian the new rec center, better apply now. Believe!

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mara 9 years, 5 months ago

So we all have to pay for it, whether we can afford it or not, with taxes they said they wouldn't raise, (as if housing isn't already expensive enough), and then we have to pay to join? We should change our name from Steamboat to Cruise Ship.

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stmbtisoutofcontrol 9 years, 5 months ago

The City Council is out of control. They seem to be indifferent to placing costs and time burdens on any City citizen. Over the past several years, the Council has been overzealous and arrogant. Unfortunately, such attitudes pass down onto City staff.

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boater25 9 years, 5 months ago

Might I remind everyone that the City has been operating on a one-legged stool called sales tax for decades and formed a special tax advisory committee a few years ago to determine how best to fund any future capital projects...and the answer that came from this hardworking group of volunteers and experts was to initiate a property tax...like so many other communities across the country. Our City needs to diversify their revenue streams as we continue to grow and change. And the way I see it, building a recreation center will only help to ensure that our beloved sales tax continues to stream in and increase each year...because people will actully continue to enjoy living here and tourists will continue to visit!! Let's build this thing now and give the people of our community a place to recreate together and enhance our already wonderful quality of life...VOTE YES ON 2B & 2C!!!!

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Neil O'Keeffe 9 years, 5 months ago

How about a city property tax for all properties valued over $1 million, this as been used successfully in other resort areas where there was tremendous limited occupancy of 2nd and 3rd homes. Yes I know that eventually all of our homes will be $1 mill plus but until that time comes let's do something to supplement our sales tax. And building a facility that we don't need is not the answer. Maybe a scaled down version that is partially funded from private investment would be more accepatable to the community, now what is on the table deserves a no and no vote on 2b and 2c

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colobob 9 years, 5 months ago

The proposed rec. center is a luxury not a necessity. Affordable housing, road improvements, schools, and maintaining the current infrastructure, ect., these are necessities. Spending outrageous sums of money while neglecting the things that are really important and necessary makes absolutely no sense what so ever. Tax dollars should be put to use for the common good not just for the affluent. Sure a world class rec. center would be nice, but at what cost? Is having families, friends, and neighbors leave because they can no longer afford to live here an acceptable cost? Is having small businesses move on because the LOCAL economy can no longer support them an acceptable cost? It's happening now. More and more will continue to leave unless the excessive and frivilous spending that has plagued Steamboat in recent years is put in check. Steamboat is a community. It's made up of a diverse group of people and this diversity along with Steamboats outstanding recreational opportunities is part of what make this place so special. Spend a week (if you can afford to) in Aspen or Vail and see if you find that same sense of community that thrives here. Bet you don't! This place is unique among ski towns, don't let it slip away. Preserve the community, preserve this great place. Vote no on 2B & 2C.

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Neil O'Keeffe 9 years, 5 months ago

Tripple Crown is history, they will be far happier in Park City for their annual championships. Good riddens! Let's not lose site of the real issue with the proposed rec center "putting the wants of a few ahead of the needs of the many". Believe!

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Books 9 years, 5 months ago

Every time I go to the Silverthorne rec center it's jammin'. It's not quite as bad as trying to sit in the Heart Spring with 40 other people, but there is always a line at the slide.

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Books 9 years, 5 months ago

stirrinuptrouble

Maybe I am reading this all wrong but wouldn't a world-class rec center be a really good selling point to get Triple Crown to stay?

The players don't come here alone, they bring their families and they don't spend all of their time on the field. They have to talk the spouse and family into coming in the first place. It's a good selling point for the players too.

As I have pointed out we do have a lot of storms blowing through. Instead of just telling them to put on their raincoat and go for a hike in a lightning storm, give them another option. Give their families another option.

You are right we need to replace those fields.

I think the families of the Triple Crown players will be pretty darn happy about a new rec center. It should be one of your biggest selling points. It might even help to encourage them to stay.

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boater25 9 years, 5 months ago

stirrinuptrouble... great points about the need for fields. If I'm not mistaken, the $34 million price tag for the rec center includes $500,000 for replacement of fields and I believe the City already has drawings/approval for an additional 2 fields at Heritage - and they have recently done a total re-vamp of the older field at Whistler Park. It's not ideal to have to give up the Ski Town fields but after 28 different sites were evaluated this is what is being recommended as the best location. Let's build it...

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Books 9 years, 5 months ago

So even if does not involve more teams, the rec center would certainly help in getting TCS to renew their contract and stay in Steamboat.

If TCS chooses to go elsewhere, we will need to fill the void with another group or groups. Seems like the rec center would be a big selling point with them also.

If the goal is to have a stable summer tourist season then we need to have everything going for us that we can. Sooner or later the day will come when Triple Crown does pull out.

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inmate2007 9 years, 5 months ago

If i understand this correctly -- vote for the Rec. Center so TCS continues to come to Steamboat and use it to it's fullest capacity.

Will TCS (or their clients) pay property tax and a use fee? or just a use fee subsidized by a property tax?

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jeannie berger 9 years, 5 months ago

Who goes on vacation and makes sure that there is a rec center nearby? Do people come to steamboat to use a rec center or to spend time in the forests and on the lakes and rivers? I can't believe that not having a rec center in SS would keep people from spending their vacation dollars here. When ever I run in to some one that has come to Steamboat Springs to vacation they never ask why we don't have a rec center and they never state that they aren't coming back until we get one. When the ball players get done with their games is that what they want to do, go work out? Come on, most of them are floating down the river on tubes with their families, not looking to lift weights or swim laps. Vote no

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nxoby36 9 years, 5 months ago

Hey I like to snowmobile and ride my quad how about we raise another tax so everyone could pay for MY new toys ? Or are my choices of recreation not as important as yours ?

VOTE NO ON 2B & 2C 1

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Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 5 months ago

dreamriver23- Have you ever worked in a reservations office, front desk or a travel agency? Do you know how many people ask for what there is to do in town if one doesn't ski/hike/etc.? Do you know how many people complain that our local cable company doesn't subscribe to the NFL network, so they can watch THEIR home teams play while on vacation?

Example- You get a family who came skiiing, except the wife/elder of family/son doesn't ski. "So what else is there to do in this town?" As you notice the leg brace on their leg, do you tell them, "Well, if you weren't laid up, you could go hiking." Yeah. That goes over well.

Or the family who comes up and finds the swimming pool is out of service for whatever reason at the property they rented. Do you know how many times I've run into that problem 17yrs in the business?

It happens almost daily, year-round. Moreso in the slow season since a lot of properties close those facilities on-site due to minimal business. If you don't believe me, I'm hiring FD staff for the winter. Come experience it!

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jeannie berger 9 years, 5 months ago

well geeze, you can't please all of the people all of the time.

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Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 5 months ago

dream- You're right, but you when that many people aren't pleased, you find a way to keep them pleased. Otherwise they stop coming to Steamboat. These are the people who are paying the majority of Steamboat's tax revenue: sales tax. They stop coming, all services in the City suffer since Steamboat has NO property tax at this time.

Then, some City Council decides it's time to implement City Property Taxes to make regular services available...as it already should be. After that, we could foist things like this into the sales tax category to make others pay for it. Unfortunately, Steamboat citizens aren't willing to step up and take a little responsibility for those services by fixing what's broken in the first place. Who balks the most? Businesses, due to the Gallagher Amendment.

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jeannie berger 9 years, 5 months ago

Kielbasa, since my job doesn't rely on tourism I am not in the same boat as you are. The property tax debate has gone on for years. We have been fortunate so far, the city hasn't seen their way clear to foist one off on us. Yes the tourism dollars pay for a lot of "our" amenities here in SS. (In exchange for those tourism dollars we put up with the crowds) When the tourists aren't happy coming here to ski, hunt, tube down the river, hike in the forests, mountain bike, play ball, camp, or just stroll up and down Lincoln Ave, we may have a money crunch. I doubt that many will stop coming here because we have no rec center. I used to work in the hotel biz, people would ask what else is there to do, (this was before the slide at the health and rec) and we always pointed them to the hot springs in Strawberry Park. A much better, privately owned, amenity that most visitors rave about. There are plenty of activities here without the addition of a property tax funded rec center.

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JQPUBLIC 9 years, 5 months ago

Ahh, the truth... It's not for stmbt families, it's for the tourists, "If you build it they will come", the taxpayers may now ante up again to attract more tourists, sorry locals. The businesses make more money and cater to the tourists, sorry locals. Traffic in town gets worse and all the other things the tax dollar pays for (including roads) becomes inadequate to handle all the extra tourists so more taxes will be needed, sorry locals. Housing costs keep rising, still somewhat affordable housing in Oak Creek though, sorry locals. Gee, I wonder what they will want the working class to pay for after this affordable, family friendly (white-collar), built for the stmbt residents (second home owners), tourist attraction is built. The working class have voted themselves enough improvements over the years to attract the wealthy, now the well-to-do are the majority and they will keep voting for the working class to support and upgrade their playground.

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Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 5 months ago

No, JQ, I've always said that it's for both local and tourists. Tourists use the downtown faciltiy all the time. Why wouldn't they enjoy one closer to the condos they rented instead of downtown? I was just going off what dreamriver23 said about who comes to Steamboat for other amenities.

For dreamriver23- See? You were getting the question 27yrs ago. Imagine that increased to today's numbers since 27yrs ago, there wasn't any summer tourism and almost everything was closed the rest of the year.

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Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 5 months ago

I'm sure you can find those numbers on the Chamber or City site. They publish tax revenue in the paper every once in a while. Then, you can see how much is tax revenue is collected during the slow season vs. peak seasons.

www.ci.steamboat.co.us/index.php?id=341

Anyone who works in Steamboat can tell you that sales tax revenue goes down in April, May, September, October and November...when tourism is at it's lowest. In fact, search the Pilot site, I know I remember an article stating that tourists pay a majority of the total sales tax revenue. Can't find that right now, without the proper search parameters, though. I'm sure someone with more time could find it.

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Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 5 months ago

Okay- use those figures over the last few years, then go to the Chamber site, this site, and the Ski Corp site and balance those figures on years when the snow has less than desirable...in fact, base those numbers back to winter 2001-2002, when people weren't going anywhere due to fear of flying into a building.

That will show a corresponding drop in Sales Tax revenue based on less tourism received during that year, and incredible discounts given to entice them to come back. Compare that to the year prior and the year afterward and you'll see how much money tourists pour into Steamboat's only tax revenue source- sales tax.

Will tourists still come without a rec center? Sure. Can you say absolutely that those numbers won't increase exponentially if we DID have a rec center? Well, you can, but only time would prove you right or wrong.

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Books 9 years, 5 months ago

Kielbasa has a good point there. People who visit Steamboat often travel in groups. Have you ever tried to get a group to agree on where to travel? Steamboat competes with vacation sites all over the world. There is always someone in the group who doesn't ski or doesn't bike or hike (or as matt points out can't) and tries to steer the group to some other place. They want an alternative if the group decides on coming to Steamboat. That happens often. So yes, we will see more tax revenue. A rec center would provide many different alternative options under one roof.

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elkeye 9 years, 5 months ago

"It's way more than a ($10-12 million dollar) swimming pool". Really?

The other amentities are merely a transparent effort to try and get support to overcome the huge negatives associated with a six-lane pool and diving well for the benefit of a few.

Rather than a property tax for the construction and/or operation of a recreation center, the proponents should have considered a lift ticket tax?

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Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 5 months ago

Thanks, Books. I also appreciate pt22's point of view...but pt is expressing a point of view as a traveler all over the world. PT didn't mention it but from the post, it sounds like PT is using just a single traveller (or pt's family) way of thinking.

Having worked in the hospitality industry and as a travel agent, I'm used to bring multitudes of people to Steamboat, travellers of all different tastes. The most common question to a first time or even potential visitor would always be: "What else is there to do besides skiing?" The standard answer would be "Anything you can think to do outside or in the snow, you can do in Steamboat." The usual next question is, "No, but what else is there to do?" I usually take that to mean: "What if you aren't outdoorsy?"

But walk down Lincoln Ave. or up to any business on the mountain and ask them what months drive their business? They'll tell you who feeds the kitty.

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elkeye 9 years, 5 months ago

kielbasa....if you want to feed the kitty, I suggest that the business community (including the Chamber Resort Association) build, at their own expense, the Triple Crown Sports (TCS) sports complex in Hayden and the proposed recreation center in Steamboat.

The idea that the taxpayers should pay to support your business model is pretty lame.

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Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 5 months ago

Elkeye- It's not MY business model; it's STEAMBOAT'S business model. Unless you're a hermit with no outside contact in the last 40 years, tourism is the ONLY thing keeping Steamboat in money right now.

Tell us, elkeye- what business in Steamboat do you own or work for that you don't depend on tourism? Or are you just independently wealthy? Also, business owners pay taxes. In fact, they pay a higher share of any property taxes that get implemented than you individually as a taxpayer due to the Gallagher Amendment.

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jeannie berger 9 years, 5 months ago

Kielbasa, my answer to you is that no one ever asked me if there was a rec center to go and work out in. Sorry I can't buy that as a reason to vote yes to raise my taxes by instituting a city property tax. Yes the tourism $'s don't flow so well in the spring and late fall but I did notice today as I was running some errands that the traffic at 2 p.m. was pretty heavy. I guess it was all non- tourists flowing into town to complain about Steamboats lack of a rec center. Long ago I found a job that kept me out of the ebb and flow of the tourism money.

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Matthew Stoddard 9 years, 5 months ago

Hey, I'm not the City Council of yesteryear who decided to ditch city property taxes in favor of an all sales tax revenue system. Had the city kept property taxes implemented for essentials, this wouldn't even be a no-brainer if it was a sales tax, making tourism pay it's share.

No matter what job you are working in city limits (or most of the county, too), I'll put money on it that I can relate it tourism dollars.

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Vince arroyo 9 years, 5 months ago

POINT BLANK. a lot of great comments. The comment by the yes people that Mc donalds is the only place to bring your kids to an indoor place to play- IS STUPID. THIS IS NORTHWEST COLO AND IT IS COLD OUT THERE IN THEM THERE HILLS. You should have been thinking about this when you decide to have kids. vote no on the rec center. It is fiscally irresponsible.

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trollunderthebridge 9 years, 5 months ago

Have any of you stopped the think just why our fair City Council put the Rec Center on the ballot? Do you think it was because they actually believe in it? Or do you think it was a way to let the voters to vote it down and then they could stand by and say "We offered this" and make themselves look good, knowing full well in the first place that this would not fly!

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beagle 9 years, 5 months ago

pt22 - You just lost ALL credibility if you hadn't already. What a nasty piece of work you must be. Cowardly bully: why don't you at least give your own name if you're going to name others and trash them. I think I'll go ahead and vote YES just because someone like you is fighting against it. Your post proves absolutely nothing wrong with the person you're attacking but says a lot about your complete lack of class. I thought I'd seen some ugly posts, but this tops it all. I'm truly disgusted and I think it's time the Pilot got rid of comments altogether.
p.s. what on earth makes you think there's anything wrong with expecting a realtor to adjust to the buyer's schedule anyway? You think you proved something with that note? What an idiot. Don't answer, I don't want any part of your slime.

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ffv 9 years, 5 months ago

Great post Beagle! Couldn't agree more. Keep the discussion on topic as opposed to stooping to personal attacks.

There are a lot of people who are behind this effort. In fact, I recieved a mailer today which lists over 500 names of people who are in support of the rec center.

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Books 9 years, 5 months ago

pt your comments are way out of line. Dragging the personal life of someone else into this is completely unnecessary. You have made plenty of compelling arguments without stooping to this level. Your comments don't really relate to the topic. So some people would like a pool. Some other people want a basketball court. Some people like to workout. I personally don't care much about a pool.

I am in this because Steamboat was out grown Health and Rec. Every time I go there it's jammed with people. It's too small. It doesn't offer enough amenities. It's not adequately serving the needs of the people who live in this town. Many other people agree. That's what this all about.

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Brent Boyer 9 years, 5 months ago

All: I can handle personal attacks against me; indeed, it comes with the territory. I won't, however, allow cruel, baseless attacks against others to remain on these threads. Anyone with questions about posting is always welcome to contact me.


Brent Boyer Editor, Steamboat Pilot & Today (970) 871-4221 bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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chris paoli 9 years, 5 months ago

PT22: it's good to see that your comments have been removed. You crossed the line with personal attacks. Please stick to your opinions.

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another_local 9 years, 5 months ago

It is always interesting to read the comments about "the businesses" and the "business owners" as if everyone that owned a business was a millionaire and raking in the big bucks and somehow should be footing the bill for everyone else.

This community has several hundred small businesses. On average, the people that own them make less than many of the "working class" people here like to talk about. The difference between a person that owns a restaurant, retail store or a service business like a mechanic that has a commercial location on the one hand and a plumber, school teacher, finish carpenter, electrician on the other is that despite the fact that they all make about the same amount of money the people that are so-called "business owners" pay a lot more taxes.

In order to earn those paychecks they also employ a bunch more people. Often those people make as much as the business owner or more.

Furthermore, many of the folks that claim that they do not work in the tourist industry forget where the dollar they earn comes from. Did your customer earn the dollar from a tourist? If so, even if your customer is a local, you are in the tourist industry too.

Without a ski mountain or hot spings, this town is just like Walden. Don't kid youself about what pays for everything we have here.

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colobob 9 years, 5 months ago

The best way to be heard and to resolve this issue is to go to the polls and vote. Private funding is the only logical way to pay for the construction of a rec center. Burdening tax payers with increased property, liquor, lift ticket, sales, gas, daylight savings, snowfall, or what ever other kind of pie in the sky tax people can conjure up is rediculous. Tax is tax. Peoples taxes are too high now and with all the things the community needs there is absolutely no justification for it. It amounts to nothing more than a luxury tax. If the private sector isn't interested in building it then there must be a good reason. On top of the outrageous initial cost to build this thing there are going to be add ons, liability insurance for one. Then you can add maintenance & upkeep, fuel (heat), electricity, staffing, administrative costs, EMT/Fire Dept./Police response, and a host of other items. How about replacement costs for the things that will wear out like equipment, video games,ect. Membership fees won't pay all these expenses, everyone will. And to those that are using Triple Crown as a partial excuse for its construction wake up! These folks are going to want to hang out, eat, talk, have a few drinks and chill out not exercise! Then there are cost overuns to worry about. We all keep hearing about a buffer. To me a buffer is nothing more than a blank check. Rarely do things come in at or under budget. This thing has the potential to become a PERPETUAL tax burden on everyone, not just the minority that can afford or want to use it. Tourists don't come to Steamboat to use a rec center, they come for the outdoor opportunities offered here. To all those opposed to this proposal don't just voice you opinion here or in other forums, let your voices be heard loud and clear with your vote. The proponents will be there, make sure you are too! No on 2B & 2C!

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JQPUBLIC 9 years, 5 months ago

It seems to me if not having a rec center is stopping tourist from vacationing in stmbt, the hotels and the mountain would have built one long ago. Hotels in other cities have indoor pools, spas, weight rooms, game rooms, etc. to take care of their tourists and it would seem that the tourists that need those kind of amenities would pay extra for a hotel that has them.

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Brianna 9 years, 5 months ago

Blah Blah Blah Has anyone ever thought how much fun a rec center is? Go to Breckenridge, Silverthorne or Avon and then determine if this is a waste of money. Most people there will be found with a smile on their face and in good shape. With the prices of everything in Steamboat, I think you can afford a small tax. Watch out though, you just may find yourself having a little fun if you are not careful.

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colobob 9 years, 5 months ago

...................by your own logic if you pay for something you don't use you've wasted your money. All would pay and most would pay for something they will never use. Is this not a waste of money of those that will never use it? Steamboat is an OUTDOOR COMMUNITY! That's why people came here, that's why people stay here, and that's why others will continue to come. People don't come from all over the country & all over the world to go to a rec. center. Isn't it terrific how quickly people will spend someone elses money. How about those that are pushing for this thing digging a little deeper and spending their own dough, especially since money is no object, particularly when it's someone elses.

"hey honey, how about for our vacation this year we jump in the car or hop on a plane and go to a rec. center?" NOT!

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colobob 9 years, 5 months ago

And with all due respects this isn't Breckenridge, Silverthorne, Avon, Aspen, or Vail. That's what make this place "special" to a lot of people. That's what make Steamboat unique!

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Zalobar 9 years, 5 months ago

This is a BIG topic. My problem with it is that there will be a new city wide tax for its build and run costs, yet all in the county and maybe neighboring counties residents can become members and use it. It should be a county issue, not a city issue. The county should be proposing to donate the land and increase EVERYones property tax for the build run costs. It would still cost $3000 @ person in this county to go forward. This way everyone in the county who might use it will share in the cost. Even so I would vote against it due to the redundantcy issues and the competition with the hotsprings rec center. Any proposal should be a compliment to the hotsprings pool not instead of it.

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