It is a challenge for anyone to take a complicated issue and make it understandable and concise. Referendum 2B is intended to bring the number of inbound and outbound seats during our winter season back to its previous level and to re-charge the program. This program will fail within three years if nothing is done.
The Local Marketing District (LMD) has been able to support airline guarantees to various carriers that enable them to serve a small market like Steamboat Springs. Referendum 2B will establish a general sales tax of 0.25 percent. It would cost 25 cents for each $100 spent within the city, with the average annual cost per family of $50.
Although this is a modest sum, it will have a great impact on our economy. The business model followed for many years that brings skiers to Steamboat Springs on direct flights from cities such as Dallas, Houston, Chicago, New York and Minneapolis will be terminated.
The loss of these direct nonstop flights will cause an enormous economic loss in spending in our town. This means a loss of jobs. It will affect the employment of stock clerks, dishwashers and retail salespeople.
We will be left with only the Denver-to-Steamboat flights. This will hurt the location-neutral professional and second-homeowners who now enjoy the ease of getting in and out of town.
Without direct nonstop air service, Steamboat will be at a competitive disadvantage to other Colorado ski areas who maintain their direct nonstop air programs. Those families that currently enjoy direct flights will likely change their ski vacation preference to destinations that simply are easier to access via nonstop flights.
The result of a “yes” vote will be to sustain the airline program that has provided broad-based benefits to year-round residents as well as second-homeowners. It has introduced many new people to our active lifestyle and small-town way of life.
The current airline program is in jeopardy not because of the LMD and its administration but by factors well beyond Steamboat Springs city limits. The cost of aviation fuel, airline consolidations and the use of smaller and more fuel-efficient aircraft have reduced our airline capacity by 27 percent during the past three years. Additionally, the dollars generated by the 2 percent lodging tax have declined significantly because of the drop in average daily revenues due to price competition compounded by a shrinking percentage of occupancy. The reserves in the LMD have dwindled and will be depleted by 2014.
Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. has supported the airline program and will continue to support it with $1.1 million. This will not change from today’s level of support. The new tax is anticipated to generate $1.3 million. This will be adequate to regain the seats we have lost, to build our tax revenues to pay for city services and to increase the airline capacity to greater than previous levels.
Referendum 2B is a reasonable, broad-based response to a very difficult situation we all face. We all will benefit from a “yes” vote.
Steamboat tends to pull together when it faces a problem. We clearly have a problem and a reasonable solution we should all get behind. This tax, which may help a private entity, should be accepted as a tax that will benefit us all. My hope is that I have made a complex ballot initiative more easily understood as well as easier to vote in favor of. Please vote “yes” on Referendum 2B.
President, Mainstreet Steamboat Springs board of directors