Council reverses use tax vote

Ordinance's failure opens building permits to reconciliation

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For more information on the city's controversial building use tax ordinance, see Use tax incites passion from Sunday's Pilot.

— The Steamboat Springs City Council reversed course Tuesday on a controversial ordinance that would have prevented city accountants from collecting what they estimate is $4.6 million in building use tax.

Council voted, 4-3, against the second and final reading of an ordinance that would have disallowed the reconciliation of building use tax deposits for building permits issued befor March 10. That's the date the city first sent a letter to open building permit holders, informing them of their intention to begin reconciling building use tax deposits.

Reconciliations have been a provision of the Steamboat Springs Municipal Code since 1991 but have never been enforced. With the addition of a use tax auditor to its staff this year, the city's Finance Department hoped to reconcile all open permits issued since 2005. Tuesday's ordinance was in response to concerns - expressed most loudly by members of the local building trades - that it was unfair to begin enforcing the policy retroactively.

"We're not questioning how it was written," Travis Holmquist, of Holmquist-Lorenz Construction, said during public comment at Tuesday's meeting. "I would just like to see you go forward with the change, rather than going backward."

Others said it was only proper for the city, in a year when declining revenues are forcing tough budget cuts, to make every effort to collect the revenue owed to it.

"The word fairness is being thrown around here quite a bit," Councilman Steve Ivancie said. "We're losing our way a little bit here because it's not an issue of fairness. It's an issue of what our responsibility is."

The ordinance passed on first reading two weeks ago, 4-2, with the support of council members Loui Antonucci, Cari Hermacinski, Scott Myller and Jon Quinn. Council members Steve Ivancie and Meg Bentley opposed the ordinance, and Councilman Walter Magill was absent.

Although the ordinance seemed destined for adoption regardless of Magill's input, his "no" vote was joined by Quinn's change of heart and the ordinance failed. Antonucci, Hermacinski and Myller were left as a minority in support of the ordinance.

Following the vote, one provision of the ordinance was resurrected and approved unanimously. That provision will change the makeup of a committee that determines the cost per square foot of construction that is used to calculate building use tax deposits.

Comments

Steve Lewis 6 years, 3 months ago

Thanks to the council majority on the denying vote.

I have no doubt, any "sleepless nights" preceding this reversal stem from the Pilot's strong stance and reporting on this tax. That being said, of the 4 first reading supporters, Jon Quinn was the sole councilor whose soul searching found common cause with the larger community. Thanks Jon.

Bob Enever was soft spoken at the podium, befitting an elder and benefactor of this town. I will thank the Pilot again for taking the weight of this issue off his shoulders. Please instill some Bob on your next editorial board.

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Dan Hill 6 years, 3 months ago

I find it incredible that members of our council had the temerity to even introduce this ordinance and 3 of them still think it's a good idea!

This is NOT an argument about retrospective tax increases, it's about enforcing the law as it was written at the time.

Clearly those involved have been systematically underestimating the amounts due (if they were honest errors there would be as many over estimates as under estimates), knowing that they wouldn't be held accountable. What sympathy should be have for people we squel when they get caught our cheating on their taxes?

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Martha D Young 6 years, 3 months ago

I'm adding my thanks to 4 City Council members who voted against the contractor subsidy ordinance to those of Steve and Dan. If I, as a property owner, obtained a building permit for improvements on my property, current regulations dictate that I pay a percentage of the estimated value of materials and supplies to be used to the city. If what I spend on the construction exceeds my original estimate, I owe more money to the city. What mechanism is in place to make sure I pay the additional amount? The honor system? My guilt? An audit? Is there a loophole here?

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