Our View: Taxation needs representation

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Editorial Board, Sept. 25, 2011, to January 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

Steamboat Springs voters did right for the community when they overwhelmingly passed Referendum 2B on Nov. 1. Now, it’s time for the broader community to have representation in the decision-making and oversight of how those funds are spent.

This Editorial Board supported Referendum 2B and asked voters to do the same. Our reasons were simple: The air service program that provides direct flights to Yampa Valley Regional Airport from major markets across the country is essential to our economy. Those flights and the visitors they bring to our city affect everyone in the community, regardless of occupation. Finally, the dire state of the air program’s reserves necessitated a temporary 0.25 percent tax increase to boost the bottom line and the number of inbound airplane seats to Steamboat Springs each winter.

According to the terms of an intergovernmental agreement, the Local Marketing District board oversees the existing 2 percent accommodations tax as well as the new 0.25 percent sales tax. The five-member board is a public body that must provide public notice of its meetings as well as open and accessible business records of LMD dealings. The City Council must approve any contracts entered into by the LMD that propose the expenditure of public dollars from the accommodations tax and the 0.25 sales tax. That’s as it should be.

But the passage of Referendum 2B should similarly result in increased representation on the LMD board from the community at-large. If this is not possible because of statutory requirements specific to the boundaries of the Local Marketing District, we challenge the LMD board and the City Council to create a solution that includes broader representation from the community.

Beginning Jan. 1, when the new tax takes effect, two-thirds of the funds used for the air program will be taxpayer dollars. The lodging industry already is well represented on the LMD board, and Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. has its nonvoting seats at the table. Who is representing other stakeholder groups, particularly now that a general sales tax applied to everything from groceries to underwear is providing funding to the air program?

The LMD board is in the midst of updating its bylaws, and the city must approve any changes. A draft of those proposed changes wasn’t available this week. We hope the group has thought carefully about its representation in light of Referendum 2B. After all, members of the LMD board as well as Ski Corp. officials asked for more public participation in the airline program when they proposed the new sales tax and urged residents to pass it. Now, the board needs to follow its own lead. Appropriate changes should be made before the first dollars generated from the new tax are spent.

Comments

jody patten 2 years, 8 months ago

Completely agree. Public dollars should be expended transparently without any sense of self-dealing. Even non-profits using donated funds must make full disclosure in their 990 tax filing which is made public through Guidestar.com.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 8 months ago

So you all believe in telling the public to pass the tax and then a couple weeks after the election decide that oh yeah, maybe the public should have some oversight? Talk about closing the barn door after the horse has bolted!

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BeCoolHoneyBunny 2 years, 8 months ago

Something that should have been asked for before the Pilot and the citizens supported and then passed this tax. LMD has no obligation to make changes to how it does business.

And "the dire state of the air program’s reserves" was only due to Ski Corps capping their investment at 1.3 million. There is no reason they couldn't have contributed more, but instead saved their money and went after public $$.

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cindy constantine 2 years, 8 months ago

Gee, Editorial Board, what a waste of paper and space. Why did you even bother to write such drivel AFTER the fact? All you have done is inflame the public once again and unlike Yampavalley boy, I will have no choice but to pay more for my groceries and heating bill for the next 5 years.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 8 months ago

And this lack of public oversight is hardly a newly discovered issue. That problem was made clear on these message boards prior to the election.

And apparently the commentary here was so biting that it apparently inspired the insipid article stating that the tax money wasn't going to Ski Corps, but to the LMD board.

So the editorial board apparently made the conscious decision to not object to the structure of the LMD in the editorial recommending the voters approve the tax prior to the election,

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sedgemo 2 years, 8 months ago

I ask, can these funds be somehow kept clearly separated, so we have some prospect of seeing if they actually deliver the intended results?

If they go into a common pot we unrepresented taxpayers will have no way to know the funds are used for their targeted goal, or if they accomplish anything other than emptying our pockets to fill empty airplanes.

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housepoor 2 years, 8 months ago

The one thing I would like to know is the effect these guarantees have on ticket prices? If it keeps them lower and creates more opportunity for friendsfamily as well as myself to fly out of or into Hayden then I do see some value there on top of the benifit of additional visitors .

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 8 months ago

Great questions that the supporters of 2B didn't think were worth asking prior to the election.

The contracts for the airlines add up to some total of which tax dollars and Ski Corps pays. So there is no distinction between taxpayer funded flights and Ski Corps funded flights.

The only way to tell if these funds have the intended results is to see how many additional seats are available this winter and how many of those seats are occupied. If as the Chamber CEO stated in his letter that there will be 44,000 additional seats bringing in $44M more dollars then the program will be a success. Reality will be well short of that. They will probably call it a success at the end of the year regardless of the facts. At what point will the public consider it to be a failure? I have no idea.

It appears that the purpose of these subsidy programs is to increase the number of seats and not to offer favorable pricing. Maybe the LMD will get tired of subsidizing empty seats, but if history is to be a guide then I wouldn't expect it.

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greyrider 2 years, 8 months ago

This is nothing more than a condescending attempt at damage control. The “overwhelming support” (61% is overwhelming?) came only from the residents in SBS. The rest of us have already been taxed without representation. The time for the broader community to have representation should have been during the vote. Interesting this would be published just prior to the black Friday feeding frenzy. We’ll let you know how the shopping is on the front range.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 8 months ago

Yes 61% is considered overwhelming. That is better than 3-2.

And the amount of the tax is not great so it will not cause many to shop elsewhere. And it is a lot easier to get a highly desired Black Friday sales item here than it is on the Front Range. Stuff that had a mad rush elsewhere was still available hours into the day at Staples last year.

But the lack of accountability and the ease which it can be wasted is disturbing. A .25% sales tax could have done so many things for residents. For instance, it could have funded Howelson, Tennis Center and so on. Rough calculation suggests that we could have make skiing at Howelson or playing tennis free for local kids including Hayden and Soroco.

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sledneck 2 years, 8 months ago

A .25% tax could have done a lot for people if they were able to keep their hard-earned money in their own pocket too. And those least able to bear it will lose the greatest percentage of their money.

No matter what its intended purpose now, the money collected will be diluted as it passes through the leechfield of government. Only a fraction will survive to do anything usefull. Compared to the moneys pre-tax strength, it will do less.

And those who take this money, which they have not earned, will end up even less prepared to deal with the reality of the business world than they are today. Distribution of these funds will yield no different result than giving a person their first dose of heroine.

Will this program EVER be able to stand on its own? Not after this; for we have proven to the addict that we will "mercifully" give him just one more fix.

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captnse 2 years, 8 months ago

It sorta reminds me of government and Politicans doing private buisness with my tax dollars. How has iron hourse city rental Program worked out? Any cash flow? Another case of tax dollars squandered. Thanks Ralph Cantafio for his article and clear discription of why this tax is wrong.

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