Steamboat Springs City Concil prepares to decide fate of lodging tax as some express concern over bonding

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Past Event

Steamboat Springs City Council meeting

  • Tuesday, July 16, 2013, 5 p.m.
  • Centennial Hall, 124 10th St., Steamboat Springs
  • All ages / Free

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— Eric Meyer describes the Steamboat Springs Trails Alliance's more than yearlong quest to secure Steamboat Springs' lodging tax revenue as a road with some unexpected turns.

The group encountered the first major turn when the Steamboat Springs City Council decided to divert from the lodging tax committee's recommendation to commit 90 percent of the tax to the hiking and biking trails proposed by the Alliance.

They encountered another turn earlier this month when the council indicated it wanted to bond and commit the tax for 20 years to allow the city to fund both the trails and a portion of the Yampa River promenade.

As the council prepares to decide Tuesday night if the city will ask voters whether to approve the bonding and grant 85 percent of the revenue to the trails and 15 percent to the Yampa River promenade, Meyer and other leaders of the trails plans still are very pleased Steamboat is poised to pledge millions to attract more hikers and bikers here.

But they want the council to reconsider the execution of the plan.

“We have told them we don't think (the 20-year commitment) is the easiest way to go,” Meyer said Monday. “I think the 20-year commitment is going to be tough to pass.”

What some see as a challenge and not the optimal option, others see as a wise compromise.

The council members who endorsed the bonding and the extended commitment of the tax said it will allow the city to fund two enticing amenities and amounted to a good compromise.

Some even acknowledged the plan would avoid pitting proponents of the promenade and the trails against one another at the ballot box in November.

Meyer, the vice president of Routt County Riders and a co-founder of the Trails Alliance, said the Alliance would prefer that the city either not bond and let cash from the tax accrue annually, or partially bond.

Proponents of the trails also worry voters here will not support the bonding and pledging the tax for two decades.

The city's proposed ballot language specifically will ask voters to allow Steamboat to generate no more than $8.75 million in debt that would carry a maximum repayment cost of $12.5 million.

As much as $60,000 of the revenue each year would be split between the marketing of the new amenities and capital improvements at the Haymaker Golf Course.

The council will have to approve the ballot language on two readings.

Council member Kenny Reisman said Monday that like Meyer and other community members he's heard from recently, the bonding and the 20-year commitment concerns him.

“I have concerns about fiscal responsibility and the cost associated with financing this over 20 years, no matter what the project would be,” Reisman said. “This has nothing to do with the proposals. Just strictly talking from a financial standpoint, it's a lot of money to spend for what we're getting dollars wise.”

Proponents of the bonding say it will allow the projects to be started immediately and start attracting tourists to the city.

“It's a tradeoff between getting the projects done soon and now versus the interest expense you're going to incur on the money,” Council President Bart Kounovsky said.

Kounovsky, who proposed the plan that will appear on the ballot language the council will consider Tuesday, said the bonding and 20-year commitment will allow the trails to receive the full amount of funding that was recommended by the lodging tax committee while also generating about $1 million for the Yampa River promenade.

Meyer said the Trails Alliance has identified several projects in the city and on Emerald Mountain that could be started shortly after the tax is approved.

The council has indicated a steering committee will be responsible for determining how to spend the money.

In the lead up to Tuesday's decision, the council has received several more letters that either ask for the promenade to receive more funding, or for the city to go all in on the trails.

Meyer said proponents of the trails projects plan to address the council Tuesday night.

“I think we're sharpening the pencils and trying to get the best thing to maximize the money for the town,” Meyer said. “Hopefully, everything works out in the last few minutes.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

This will be the most obvious vote for financial irresponsibility since the Iron Horse purchase.

Committing to 2o years bonds for an ongoing trail building project has got to be one of the all time dumbest ideas. If it is to be an ongoing trail building project then it should be annually funded. The trail building proposal was for an ongoing project that would have time to apply for matching grants, organize volunteers and generally be most effective as an ongoing program.

What sort of idiots would convert that plan to bonding that, like the Iron Horse, prevents future City Councils from having much control over the process for the next 20 years?

IA cynic could argue that bonding is a deliberate bait and switch intended to generate money now that will immediately be spent on Yampa St and crippling the trail building program by forcing them to spend a greatly reduced amount over as many years as their share of the money lasts. A more honest proposal would have been to bond several million for Yampa St and leave the rest uncommitted to be used annually for trails. But that sort of honest proposal would mean the ballot would have been bonding just for Yampa St which would probably have no chance of passing.

So this very cynical city government attaches the trail building to the bonding so that it has a better chance of passing and they don't care how it will remove millions for building trails. That is just the cost of trying to trick the public to provide funding for Yampa St.

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Pat West 1 year, 5 months ago

Hmmm, so $8million worth of trails and Yampa street, for the cost of $12mil.

We seem to be attracting tourists just fine right now, and who is to tell what may come up in the next 20 years that may need funding. Any funds put to these projects would have a positive value toward attracting tourists, leaving $4mil at the bank will not.

Set a timeline for spending the money as it accrues, and keep voting for representives for city council that support these projects.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

Looking through the meeting materials and the facts on the bonding are even worse than presented.

The ballot measure is cleverly worded to say "no more than $8.75 million in debt that would carry a maximum repayment cost of $12.5 million" because the expected amount to be raised by the 20 years of bonds is $7,475,000. So yes, that is less than $8.75M. The amount expected to be raised is $1.3M less than advertised in ballot language.

So bonding is expecting to cost us $5M out of $12.5M. The sort of idiot that would suggest bonding for a trail building program will be easy to vote out of office.

The one potential good thing to come out of the city council putting this on the ballot is that there will be an important local issue on the same ballot as the city council elections. So city council candidates will have to answer questions on the bonding and the public will be able to learn which are gullible idiots and which have a basic understanding of finance and oppose bonding.

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jerry carlton 1 year, 5 months ago

  1. Government should not spend more money than it takes in.

  2. Government should not borrow money. The Federal government is pushing this country towards collapse by borrowing money.

  3. KISS Keep it simple stupid.

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John Fielding 1 year, 5 months ago

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The trails group is right to be concerned that linking their proposals to a bond vote could go badly for them. The local electorate has grown apprehensive about long term commitments of tax revenue. And a desire for greater value is increasing after all these years of tight budgets.

Spending 1/3 of your budget in interest for a long term loan can only be justified if the entire benefit is received promptly up front, such as in the new library or community center. If the trails group comes out in favor of the bond they will be perceived as supporting fiscal irresponsibility.

.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

Well, i'd suggest Trails Alliance then I'd promise to campaign against bonding.

Bonding means the money available for projects for the next 20 years becomes $7.5M instead of $12.5M 15% to Yampa St takes out another $1.1M leaving $6.4M. Over 20 years that is $320K a year.

Thus, Trails Alliance would be just as well off if bonding failed and future city councils only funded them ever other year.

So this city council is taking a recommendation for 90% and converting it to 50% and making that reduction stick for the next 20 years.

That is close to this city council declaring war on the Trails Alliance and there is no way that the Trails Alliance should be fooled by this city council's smoke and mirrors to go along with this. This is a 40% cut from the committee's recommendations on how to allocate the accommodations tax.

Trails Alliance should tell the city council that they will oppose the bonding measure because bonding results in too severe of cut from recommended revenues.

Politically that would be win win situation. If bonding wins then they get legally committed money. If bonding loses then they become the powerful political force that defeated the ballot measure because it didn't give them enough money.

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Harvey Lyon 1 year, 5 months ago

Yampa Street could be amazing. Move the rail road, parking on the Howelsen side. Lots of brightly lit walk bridges, romantic strolls, fire pits and gathering spots, restaurants and night life. Bike parking and real snow removal. It could be world class and beat the heck out of Vail Village.

But it will take a whole lot more than a couple of $million.

On the "trails side" I'd lobby hard to have the forest service upgrade their roads. We've miles and miles of old Forest Service roads that are also great biking paths. Personally, I'm not totally sold on the "gravity" paths. Of course they're fun...but also for the young and aggressive. This age group generally doesn't spend money that generates taxes.

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mark hartless 1 year, 5 months ago

"...move the railroad..." ?

That's hillarious! That will be an extremely SHORT conversation.

"...lobby hard to have the Forest Service update their roads..." ? Even funnier! The City, in cooperation with the greenies has worked for roadless forests for years, now they should ask the USFS to upgrade the roads they have neen protesting heretofore??? Hee hee hee- yeah right.

And I suppose the USFS will do upgrade work using all the surplus funds it recieves from mtn bikers, cross country skiers, backcountry skiers, snowshoers, bird-watchers, etc.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

Maybe they could close Yampa St and make the river flow down there so properties on both sides can be riverfront.

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rhys jones 1 year, 5 months ago

Well, I'm happy to see we're receptive to new ideas!! Here are a few more to ponder:

-- How about a tunnel UNDER Lincoln Ave?

-- Let's make Yampa and Oak NO WAY (pedestrain only) and leave Lincoln as it is.

-- Remember when Vail wanted to lease the space out over I-70? What if we just elevated Hwy 40 about 30 feet through downtown?

-- Or in the alternative, made a town-long promenade up there?

-- Telluride always wants to park the tourists at Society Turn and bus them three miles into town. Only permits get in. We should explore that too.

-- A giant waterway -- trough, if you will -- which circumvents Lincoln, and we ferry the traffic around, or,

-- How about we just move the town?

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