Mainstreet Steamboat Springs is considering asking downtown property owners, business owners and residents to consider a property tax to support a variety of services for the district. While residents would vote for the tax, only commercial property owners would pay it.

Photo by John F. Russell

Mainstreet Steamboat Springs is considering asking downtown property owners, business owners and residents to consider a property tax to support a variety of services for the district. While residents would vote for the tax, only commercial property owners would pay it.

Talks about Steamboat business improvement district tax to continue


— There was support for and objection to a business improvement district property tax measure this November at the Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Economic Restructuring Committee meeting Wednesday, but everyone agreed that the discussion needs to continue.

Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett told the group she was encouraged to pursue a tax for the district that includes the area roughly between Third and 13th streets and Yampa to Oak streets because the city’s financial support for the organization that promotes downtown continues to decline. She said the city will provide $40,000 of Mainstreet’s $140,000 overall budget in 2012, down from a high of $63,000.

Barnett said a business improvement district property tax would provide a stable funding source that could pay for the Mainstreet program, marketing and promotion of the downtown district and services for businesses.

A tax would be considered by property owners, business owners and residents of the narrowly defined district, but only commercial property owners would be assessed the tax, Barnett said. She said residential property owners wouldn’t pay the tax.

Economic Restructuring Committee member Randy Rudasics said he didn’t think there was enough time to educate district stakeholders and put together a campaign. He suggested possibly delaying an election to 2013.

Committee member Frank Dolman also said 2012 was the wrong year for a tax measure. Dolman said he had five concerns that would lead to its failure — the ongoing economic recession and uncertainty about when it will end; a poor snow year impacting businesses; anti-government anger; anti-tax sentiment in general; and depressed real estate in Routt County.

“All that cumulative effect makes voting against something easy,” Dolman said. “... I’m just concerned that this year, with these elements, can I — can we — do enough educating to convince the naysayers?”

Mainstreet Board of Directors President Bill Moser said he thought the organization had come a long way since a tax measure to fund the business improvement district failed by six votes in 2008. He is “cautiously optimistic” it would pass this year.

Barnett said that based on the value of downtown properties — more than $53 million in assessed valuation and $203 million in actual value — a 1-mill increase would generate about $53,000 for the business improvement district. Revenues from the tax would be dispersed by a board of property owners who live within the district.

She said if a 2012 ballot issue passed, the property tax increase would take effect in 2013.

Routt County Assessor Gary Peterson, who didn’t attend the meeting, said Wednesday afternoon that the 2011 mill rate in the downtown district that will be paid this year is just more than 42 mills. He said a 1-mill increase would cost commercial property owners $29 per $100,000 of actual property value.

The Mainstreet Economic Restructuring Committee will reconvene Feb. 8 for a special meeting to start working on a plan to engage downtown stakeholders about the tax and why some think it might be necessary.

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email


addlip2U 4 years, 4 months ago

Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett ..." said the city will provide $40,000 of Mainstreet’s $140,000 overall budget in 2012, down from a high of $63,000." "1-mill increase would generate about $53,000 for the business improvement district."

Is there something wrong with this picture? Why raise the tax when that would not generate enough to even pay for the program itself? More reason to not shop downtown and "BUY LOCAL"?


Scott Ford 4 years, 4 months ago

Hi YVB - This goes beyond Tracy lobbying for her job. That is way too shortsighted and is not the driving underlying motivation.. The Business Improvement District (BID) property tax is an attempt to limit the problem of "Free-riding". Simply put there are downtown merchants that benefit greatly from the efforts of Main Street such as the Farmer's Market, the Halloween Stroll, Small Business Saturday, etc.

The downtown businesses that belong to Mainstreet pay dues and contribute time and talent. There are some merchants that for whatever reason have declined to participate. After almost 10 years - I doubt very little can be done to have them join. Why should they? They benefit from Main Street's efforts but do not pay.

The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association struggled with a similar "free-rider" problem in securing enough funding that a meaningful Summer Marketing campaign could be developed and implemented. Therefore, many businesses stepped forward and contributed to the Summer Marketing efforts above and beyond their SSCRA dues. Others businesses did not, but benefited from the efforts being made. These businesses were "Free-riders". To address this problem was the motivation behind allowing the City of Steamboat Springs to retain the "vendor fee" for summer marketing. The city has seemed to forgotten this - but that is another matter.

From my perspective, I do not think Main Street Board is asking for enough. I would like to see Mainstreet ask for a mil increase sufficient to eliminate the need for funding from the City's community support budget. The ongoing habit of going to the City Year after year is weird and creates a goofy type dependency subjects to the whims and personalities of the City Council at the time.

I do not think there is huge amount of education that needs to take place. This is not a community wide vote - it is special district vote. Even though many of the merchants do not own their space - their landlords likely understand very well the problem of "Free-Riders" and not being dependent on the city for funding year-after-year.

Tracy, without naming names you could quickly count the number of businesses downtown that benefit directly from Main Street's efforts but do not belong. What is that number?


sledneck 4 years, 4 months ago

Todays city government can best be summed up thusly:

"There was an old [city] who swallowed a cow; [it] swallowed the cow to catch the goat; [it] swallowed the goat to catch the dog; [it] swallowed the dog to catch the cat; [it] swallowed the cat to catch the bird; [it] swallowed the bird to catch the spider; [it] swallowed the spider to catch the fly. [Who knows] why [it] swallowed the fly...???

I know why the city swallowed the fly... to buy votes and continue its feifdom and re align the playing field over and over and over again... until they accomplish what no utopian grandstanders have... bringing perfect order out of the unpredictable, indeciferable embarrasment that IS government!!! Ditto for the cow, goat, dog, airline tax, "business improvement district tax", micro-grant bla bla bla bla...


Scott Wedel 4 years, 4 months ago

Scott F. Well, since City collects quite a bit of sales tax revenues from downtown retail then it is more logical than most of the city's spending for tourism or economic development for the city to commit to some amount of Main St spending. Not really saying it is a great idea, just less bad than other similar city spending.

BTW, I calculate at $203M of actual value and revenues of $29 per $100,000 of actual vales then projected revenues would be $58,870, not $53,000.


ThomasPaine 4 years, 4 months ago

Scott – I would tell you that your notion of this tax being an attempt to solve the “Free-riding” problem is overly simplistic and potentially misguided.

As a downtown property owner and business owner, I say without a doubt, there is a significant number of downtown business and/or property owners like myself that choose not to belong to Mainstreet for various reasons. Speaking for myself, I belonged to Mainstreet for many years, participated on various committees, and after many years concluded that Mainstreet was misaligned with my business and did not add enough value to justify my time or money.

You asked Tracy to provide a quick count of the number of business that benefit directly from Mainstreet’s efforts. You more than most people should be able to see that obtaining “data” from Tracy has a clear bias and any response could not be considered as a valid data-point.

I would urge you to more beyond your “free-riding” hypothesis and ask the question that you and Mainstreet should really be asking…Why to business owners like myself, that had supported Mainstreet in the past, choose to no longer do so?


mtroach 4 years, 4 months ago

Why not tell us why you no longer support Mainstreet?


ThomasPaine 4 years, 4 months ago

mtroach -

I no longer support Mainstreet because it has too much involvement and management from non-business owners, such as… Bankers, Real Estate Brokers, retired people looking for something to do, etc.

This leads to the development and implementation of activities and initiatives that truly have little positive economic impact. The fact is, most business owners, especially in the current business climate, are working too hard and too many hours to afford the luxury of participating in this type of organization. And thus, in my opinion, you end-up with time and money wasting initiatives that don’t really amount to much… other than to make a few people feel good because “they helped”, or worse, they achieved their personal agendas that had little to do with improving the Downtown business climate.

I just assume Mainstreet go away and the City use the tens of thousands of dollars elsewhere.


mtroach 4 years, 4 months ago

Don't forget about the city budget survey, seems like you can participate as many time as you want. Tell city leaders no to more marketing.


Scott Ford 4 years, 4 months ago

Good Morning Thomas - I am not too sure who Thomas Paine is in the context of Main Street, but I am sure you are civically involved in our community. Good for you! In addition, you write well - therefore share that ability with your online namesake.

I have not been too close to the "Main Street" board for some time. I am sadden to hear that your experience was less than satisfying and that was the reason for your decision to withdraw your involvement and support financially. I understand that it happens on occasion. There are limits to anyone's frustration with an organization.

I can appreciate your frustration that an organization (Main Street) that was formed primarily to support downtown merchants has become in your opinion diluted with a diverse spectrum of businesses with no or weak ties to frontline downtown merchants. However, by your own admission you have essentially taken your "ball and bat" and have gone home. As a result, you have lost "voice" which is more concerning from my perspective. Since I assume you are a merchant downtown, and likely benefit from Main Street's activities, however minimal that maybe, by not belonging, you are a "free-rider" by definition. On closer inspection I think each of us would find areas where we are "free-riders." I am not your judge.

One of the larger issues I think we as a community are working through is the questions of how many organizations do we need that have very similar purposes. We have a Main Street, Mountain Village Partnership, and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. One cannot help but wonder if some consolidation would be in order. I am confident that at some level that Main Street and the MVP formed because there was a feeling amongst the merchants in those geographical locations that they would be better served apart from being perhaps a sub-committee of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. Who knows?

I am not too sure what the motivations were and would appreciate insights from folks that do know. I would not be surprised if both groups felt specific needs were so unique that they could meet those need better themselves.

The question remains. Do we need three organizations that essentially do the same thing and differ primarily because of geographical focus? Maybe. However, I think it is a question worth asking.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 4 months ago

I note that Thomas Paine apparently does not agree that he is significantly directly benefiting from MainStreet. And so he would not be freeloading.


pitpoodle 4 years, 4 months ago

The Steamboat BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT district is certainly mis-named at the very least. Taxing business to support feel-good events does not necessarily improve businesses' bottom line. The businesses who want to participate should continue to do so voluntarily. Many businesses in the designated taxing area do not benefit from the Main Street organization. Why should they be required to pay? Main Street has done quite enough with their backing of the tax to benefit SkiCorp that just passed. One more thing, no SBS property tax. It sets a precedent that could bring about a city-wide property tax.


ThomasPaine 4 years, 4 months ago

Scott Ford -

I believe you raised a key question…should be have multiple “economic promotion” organizations, or should there be some consolidation? This should certainly be answered before this new tax is seriously considered.

Aside from spending time as part of Mainstreet, I have also been actively involved with various Chamber committees over the years. For what it’s worth, I would tell you that Steamboat is too small for competing organizations, if they are anything but privately funded.

Lastly, I would disagree “that I have taken my bat and ball and gone home” and thus lost my voice. Not true. I will be very vocal and will plan to help financially (in a big way) an opposition movement that surely will arise, should this tax increase gather steam.


Jamie McQuade 4 years, 3 months ago

While I am a member of Mainstreet, I think it is ridiculous that we would be asked to pay more taxes. The downtown commercial properties pay some of the highest property taxes in the county. The values are driven by the cost of the land, and are 3 times the rate of residential property taxes. So if you have a property with 1 building or a property with 10 units the taxes may be the same. We are encouraging large box buildings in downtown and taxing the life out of small businesses. The city and the ski area have already done enough to kill Steamboat business. Between the sales tax increase, the property taxes and the city fees and penalties, the only entity making money off my successful business is the government. We do not want to be California, many of California businesses moved to Colorado because Colorado WAS business friendly.


mtroach 4 years, 3 months ago

@TPaine, I agree that funding multiple promotion organizations in such a small town should be reconsidered. Isn't that what the Chamber is for? Why can't all these marketing organizations work together under one roof?


Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.