Look for extended coverage of this story in the Real Estate section of Sunday’s Steamboat Pilot & Today.
Steamboat Springs A task force of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority is preparing to go to its board Feb. 10 and recommend that it ask voters in November to approve a new property tax to fund its ongoing operations.
The contemplated tax would not affect taxpayers throughout Routt County — the YVHA district conforms closely to the tax boundaries of the Steamboat Springs Fire Protection District, minus Milner.
No decision has been made about how many mills of property tax the authority might seek, nor is the amount of revenue to be raised certain. However, the committee took a hard look this week at prospective numbers and the political reality of getting a tax passed.
“We need to strike a balance between creating the right environment to make the housing authority sustainable and capable of fulfilling its purpose and at the same time having the least impact on the taxpayers,” Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.
She is a member of the housing authority’s board and its Strategic Planning Committee, along with City Councilman Scott Myller, Catherine Carson, YVHA Board President Rich Lowe, Housing Authority Program Manager Mary Alice Page-Allen, Bud Romberg and Jody Patten, of Habitat for Humanity.
The committee also looked at a sales tax, but there was little support for pursuing that type of tax to fund YVHA.
“The sales tax — it’s so regressive,” Lowe said. “It includes (city tax) on groceries and utilities.” It impacts “the people we want to help … our charter is work force housing.”
The Yampa Valley Housing Authority has been receiving about $160,000 annually from the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County. The funds support more than 350 families a year and allows the authority to manage low-income apartments, a mobile home park and deed-restricted housing units, according to the draft of the authority’s new strategic plan. There also is a strong emphasis on providing down-payment assistance to qualified homebuyers.
Since its inception in 2003, it has been expected by local government that the authority would become self-sustaining.
Complicating the task of calculating the proposed tax in spring and how much it might cost taxpayers is the fact that the county’s overall assessed property valuation, and that of the YVHA district along with it, is due to be revised in spring. Local officials are sure the valuation, which forms the basis of tax collection, will decrease in the wake of the real estate crisis.
“I think we need to go for enough (mills of tax) to cover our operating budget and provide the programs we need to do to get people in housing with a little bit extra for new projects,” Stahoviak said. “I honestly think we’re looking at a half-mill, and we’d have a hard time getting any more.”
A preliminary spreadsheet prepared by Carson showed that a half-mill of tax applied to the district’s 2009 assessed valuation of $1.13 billion would generate a little more than $567,000 in revenue. That would result in about $20 of annual taxes on the typical $500,000 home and about $72.50 on $500,000 of commercial property.
But the numbers are due to be recalculated May 1, when the new property valuation of the county goes into effect. Local officials have been estimating that the valuation in the greater Steamboat area will go down by as much as 35 percent.
It’s also likely the committee would recommend that a new tax have a sunset clause that would send it back to the voters after perhaps five to seven years.
“I think we will not have a ghost’s chance in hell of passing it without a sunset,” Stahoviak said.
Carson said it would be incumbent on the YVHA board to tell the voters specifically what it would accomplish with the new tax dollars and be able to demonstrate tangible benefit when the sunset period is up.