Airport commissioners weigh car rental tax

Hayden residents will decide in November whether to add cost to car rentals

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Airport commissioners pondered the possible effects of Hayden's proposed car-rental tax at a meeting Thursday evening.

The Yampa Valley Airport Commission discussed the proposed 3.5 percent increase in sales tax, which Hayden voters will decide on at the Nov. 3 election. Janet Fischer, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.'s airline program director, provided figures about the cost to car renters.

Other topics Thursday included an update on the phase three expansion at Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Fischer's numbers showed that 33 percent of the cost of renting a car at YVRA goes to taxes and fees. If Hayden voters OK the increase, that would increase to 37 percent. In Eagle County, renters pay 38 percent in tax. They pay 32 percent in Aspen and 30 percent in Denver.

"Denver has the volume to make 30 percent work in terms of volume. (Denver) might not be a comparable," commission member Paul Hughes said. "The others are in the ballpark. Are you suggesting people won't come?"

Fischer said she wasn't trying to suggest anything.

"We just wanted to provide some information. ... Does it need to be an increase of 3.5, or could it be a balance somewhere in between that is not quite as steep?" Fischer said.

Sticker shock

Ski Corp. President Chris Diamond said he was concerned about the growing costs for tourists. He encouraged those present to take the big picture into consideration.

"It's as much a perception issue as anything else," Diamond said.

Hayden Town Manager Russ Martin said the tax would raise $140,000 for the town, based on 2008 car rentals.

Fischer's figures broke down who gets how much tax from car rentals. If Hayden voters approve a car-rental tax, the town will get 20.4 percent of the taxes. The state will get 25 percent, the county will get 2.7 percent, and YVRA will get 51.9 percent.

Commission member Jon Quinn, also a Steamboat Springs City Council member, said he sympathized with Hayden's need for revenue. The town has had to slash its budget, and Quinn said he was concerned that higher costs would push away would-be renters.

"My hunch is that this is going to make Alpine Taxi very happy, and it's going to make Hertz and Avis and anyone else who's in here very unhappy," Quinn said.

YVRA redesign

Designers are working on the third phase of the redevelopment of YVRA. The plan includes a larger baggage area with another belt for bags, structural changes and an expanded second floor.

Design started in July and is scheduled to be finished in February. Bidding on the project would begin in March with a construction award granted in April.

The first section of the project is set to be completed in November 2010. The rest is scheduled for completion in February 2011. Airport Manager Dave Ruppel said he'd rather not break the project into segments.

"If we don't have to do that, I don't want to, obviously, because of the mobilization cost," he said. "It does add some cost."

Ruppel said he wasn't optimistic that YVRA would be able to get funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Federal Aviation Administration rarely funds building projects and doesn't like to, he said. There's another potential speed bump, Ruppel said.

"Some of the language in the recovery act requirements includes a much stronger requirement for buy America stuff," he said. "That's a problem when you get to a building because if you look at half the things in this room, they weren't built in America."

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