Election Guide 2013: Voters to have say in how lodging tax is spent with Referendum 2A

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— For the first time in nearly 20 years, voters here will have a say in how the city of Steamboat Springs spends its lodging tax.

If local voters approve Referendum 2A, the city for the next decade will be able to spend millions of dollars to improve and create a variety of multiuse trails while also dedicating $900,000 to the creation of the Yampa River promenade.

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If the measure fails, the money will accrue and could be allocated on a short-term basis by the Steamboat Springs City Council.

The 1 percent lodging tax is paid by visitors to Steamboat’s hotels and lodges and is spent on amenities that aim to draw more tourists to the city.

It is not a new tax, and Steamboat residents do not pay it unless they stay in a hotel.

Since 1995, the revenue has been used exclusively to retire the debt accrued to build the Haymaker Golf Course.

Before that, it helped to build the city’s Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs and the Strings Music Festival tent.

Now, the city needs the approval of its citizens to commit the tax to some new projects for another 10 years.

The Yampa River promenade is the brainchild of several downtown property owners who want to convert some of the vacant lots on Yampa Street into a series of pocket parks.

The $900,000 contribution from the lodging tax would be used to purchase a property at Yampa and Seventh streets to convert into a park. It then would be up to downtown business owners to secure the funding for the remainder of the project.

The plan also calls for the addition of a 16- to 24-foot wide sidewalk on Yampa Street to make it more pedestrian friendly.

The trails projects were brought forward by the Steamboat Springs Trails Alliance, a coalition of biking, hiking and naturalist groups.

Together, they created a portfolio of 46 multiuse trail projects that range from the extension of the Yampa River Core Trail south to the Legacy Ranch to the establishment of more dirt trails in places like Buffalo Pass and Rabbit Ears Pass.

How did the city choose the two projects?

In summer 2012, the city initiated what became a yearlong process to have a six-member committee vet dozens of applications for the tax money.

The ideas ranged from new public bathrooms in Steamboat to the construction of a new community field house.

After months of meetings and conversation about which project would attract the most visitors to Steamboat, the lodging tax committee — composed of two City Council members, three leaders in the lodging community and one community representative — decided the trails projects were most worthy of the funding.

But after weeks of wrestling with the final proposals itself, the City Council elected to stray from the lodging tax committee’s recommendation and find a way to fund both of the projects.

To do that, the council is recommending that the revenue be split between the trails and the promenade until the downtown amenity reaches $900,000, likely in three years.

The trails then would receive the lion’s share of the revenue for the remainder of the decade, likely accumulating millions.

The tax currently generates about $650,000 per year and is projected to increase.

If the tax generates more than $600,000 in a year, as much as $60,000 would be split evenly between the marketing of the new amenities and capital improvements at Haymaker Golf Course.

Referendum 2A

Shall the city of Steamboat Springs be obligated to a multiple-fiscal year obligation by allocating, for the next 10 fiscal years, the revenues from the existing public accommodations tax (tax revenues), on a fiscal year basis, as follows: A) The first $600,000 of tax revenues to be split on a 50 percent-50 percent basis between 1. the development of trails in and around the city in accordance with the Trails Alliance proposal and 2) improvements to Yampa Street in accordance with the Yampa Street River Park proposal, until the total allocation to the improvements on Yampa Street reaches $900,000, thereafter 100 percent of the first $600,000 of tax revenues shall be spent on development of trails; B) the next $60,000 of tax revenues to be split on a 50 percent-50 percent basis between 1. marketing of the tourist-related improvements constructed with tax revenues and 2. reserves for the Haymaker Golf Course capital improvements; and C) any tax revenues in excess of $660,000 may be spent at the discretion of city council on projects authorized by the 1986 public accommodations tax ballot question?

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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Election Guide 2013

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