Rob Douglas: A separate government from the city

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This summer, momentum is gathering to repurpose existing local taxes while simultaneously creating new tax burdens for residents and businesses in Steamboat Springs and Routt County.

Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Douglas here.

Specifically, from the creation of a second Urban Renewal Authority plan area in Steamboat Springs that would repurpose existing taxes from Routt County and the Steamboat Springs School District to address “blight” in downtown Steamboat, to the creation of a Business Improvement District tax on commercial property owners within the BID’s downtown Steamboat boundaries, to the creation of a county-wide (or smaller) parks and recreation district with the power to tax properties within the district, there is increasing movement toward restructuring and increasing taxes across the city and county.

Providing impetus, the Steamboat Springs City Council voted this week to empower the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission to “have a conversation” about the potential creation of a parks and recreation taxing district or, as Steamboat Springs City Manager Deb Hinsvark called it, “a total separate government from the city.” That “conversation” will begin at Wednesday’s commission meeting with a presentation by Steve Russell, executive director of the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District.

Prior to the vote, council member Sonja Macys (the only no vote) expressed concern that substantive discussions — including promises of funding — about the creation of a parks and recreation district that could entail changes in the city’s tax structure were underway absent direction from the City Council.

“Well, I’m a little uncomfortable with it. The reason is, and I’ve said this on the record before, I’ve heard promises being made to one user group or another user group as far as we’re going to move forward with this parks and recreation district. And certain board members of certain nonprofits have been told that their nonprofit will be included as an organization that will receive funding from this,” Macys said. “This is a change in a taxation structure potentially if we were to take on a parks and rec district. And that is something that this council really should be looking at as opposed to having it being sprinkled out in the community with promises being made before the council has had a chance to have a discussion about it, in my opinion.”

After council President Pro-Tem Scott Myller concurred with Macys’ view that the potential creation of a parks and recreation taxing district falls within the purview of the City Council as opposed to the Parks and Recreation Commission, City Manager Deb Hinsvark pushed back.

“I would disagree with that because a park and rec district is its own separate government. It could form all around us without including us at all if it wanted to. I think this particular parks and rec district — and I know what you’re talking about as far as promises,” looking at Macys, “no promises were made to anyone that I’m aware of, to any nonprofit, but there is a possibility that nonprofits could become a part of this if it went that far — but this particular parks and rec district sounds like it wants to incorporate the city’s parks department and assets into it,” Hinsvark said. “Nonetheless, it still would be a genesis of a parks and rec group. It would be their decision to put together an entire plan, to bring it back to you as the governing body to determine whether to put it on an agenda for a vote of the people. And whether you (the council) would be willing to give up your city assets to form this new government if that was the case. But it’s absolutely, in my mind, it’s absolutely the parks and rec district’s purview to take a look at this and see if it’s a government they want to pursue. And it is a total separate government from the city.”

It seems odd that Hinsvark advised the council to take a hands-off approach while public discussions get underway (private talks have been taking place for months) about something as consequential as the creation of a “separate government from the city.”

After all, that separate government — a parks and recreation district — would compete with the city for future tax increases.

Then again, maybe that’s the goal.

To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @RobDouglas3

Comments

John St Pierre 3 months ago

Am I imagining things??? I thought the city manager was an EMPLOYEE of the city run by the ELECTED council memebers serving at their whim.... over the last several months one has to wonder who is running who???

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Joe Meglen 2 months, 4 weeks ago

“The power to tax is the power to destroy” …” Chief Justice John Marshall

Keep raising taxes and all businesses in Routt County will be nonprofits.

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Fred Duckels 2 months, 4 weeks ago

The only way to enact another tax is keep the voters from having a choice.

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Scott Wedel 2 months, 4 weeks ago

A separate government like the library district, school district, county government and so on.

The city doesn't coordinate taxing policy with any of them so no reason that a parks and rec district would cause any problems. In fact, parks and rec district would mean the city would not have that dept as a budget item any more and so would free up money to spend elsewhere.

The BID is also no big deal of people in an area forming a district to tax themselves and spend the money in a way that they think will benefit themselves. That is better than the city paying for what that special interest group requests.

The URA is an abusive loophole letting people in the district take tax money that should go elsewhere. That million dollar properties can call themselves blighted is an absolute farce and the sort of abuse that should inspire boycotts from the rest of the public. Maybe we should start a list of people that will refuse to do business at properties that divert their property tax money from the schools, county, etc to show them the URA will be counter productive.

The question is whether the local population has an appetite for more taxes It is going to take a good chunk of money for a parks and rec district

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Harvey Lyon 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Wouldn't bother me in the least to have a "Metro Parks and Rec" organization but only if there was an off set of general sales tax. I like smaller Government and less on the City's plate but I also think P&R are doing a bang up job now the way things are.

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mark hartless 2 months, 4 weeks ago

From Lord of the Rings:

Aragorn: Gentlemen! We do not stop 'til nightfall. Pippin: But what about breakfast? Aragorn: You've already had it. Pippin: We've had one, yes. But what about second breakfast?

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jerry carlton 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Please prove me wrong and vote against this if it comes on the ballot. I expect it will pass.

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