Steamboat air program managers to meet the taxpayers Oct. 9

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What: Steamboat Airline program open house

When: 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 9

Where: Library Hall, Bud Werner Memorial Library, 1289 Lincoln Ave.

— The board of the Local Marketing District that oversees Steamboat’s airline program will field all questions from all comers Oct. 9 when it hosts an open house intended to make the management and finances of the effort that underwrites ski season service at Yampa Valley Regional Airport better understood by the community.

“Any member of the community can ask any question in any detail,” LMD treasurer Bill Stuart said Friday. “It’s what we’re doing in terms of letting the community know what the LMD does, which is sometimes confusing in detail. It’s a very open, transparent meeting. So if anyone has a question or misunderstanding, this format is a valuable (opportunity) to come and ask their questions."

The meeting is from 5 to 7 p.m. in Library Hall.

LMD board President Steve Dawes said he wants to have extensive handouts on the workings of the airline program available at the meeting, which he predicted would not be the last of its kind.

“I would envision this is going to be an annual event for us,” Dawes said. “It’s not going to be a one and done. What we establish this year is what we build on.”

Steamboat resident Steve Lewis, who said he voted for the 0.25 percent general sales tax approved by Steamboat voters in November 2011 to help support the airline program, couldn’t wait for Oct. 9 to talk about his issues with program.

After thanking the LMD board for its efforts, Lewis said he would be inclined to withdraw his support in the future if program managers continue to take the position that they cannot more accurately project how many airline seats and passenger traffic the tax dollars can leverage.

“I met with Ski Corp.’s director of this program yesterday, along with an LMD board member and a vice president of Ski Corp. I asked what, in retrospect, seems to be the pivotal question: ‘What passenger level can you promise us five years out?’ The unanimous response was there could be no such promise,” Lewis said.

Ski Corp. Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Rob Perlman said after the meeting that there are too many variables involved, from aviation fuel costs to changes in the airline industry and the economy for Ski Corp. and LMD members to predict how many airlines seats they will be able to deliver that far in advance.

The LMD board voted unanimously Friday to approve a preliminary 2013 budget and plan of operation that will be presented to the Steamboat Springs City Council on Sept. 18. It calls for Ski Corp. to contribute $1.11 million, Fly Steamboat to kick in $100,000, and the LMD to contribute $2.17 million from all tax sources (including the original 2 percent LMD lodging tax) minus $93,538 in expenses toward revenue guarantees for the airlines. Together they will raise $3.385 million toward the coming winter’s maximum flight revenue guarantees of $4,003,600.

As promised, Ski Corp. will backstop the shortfall and contribute up to another $618,202 if, at the end of the ski season, the program is obligated to pay the airlines the maximum amount of the revenue guarantee caps.

The budget figures are based on projected tax revenues that could still change, Perlman said.

Through June, the 0.25 percent sales tax for the airline program had collected about $504,000 in its first six.

For the coming winter Ski Corp. has put together a program that will bring almost 111,000 roundtrip seats to the airport compared to the approximate 124,000 seats that served YVRA last ski season. Program officials report that of the loss of about 13,000 seats this coming winter, 90 percent is attributable to Frontier Airlines’ decision not to serve the Yampa Valley. Frontier, which has also left Aspen, was not contracted to fly into YVRA last year.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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