Our View: BID tax is right move
January 31, 2012
Kudos to Mainstreet Steamboat Springs leaders for their push of a business improvement district tax for downtown's commercial corridor. We hope property owners and businesspeople in the narrowly defined district recognize the value those revenues would have on the continued improvement of the downtown experience for residents and guests.
Passing a new tax is never easy, and particularly so in this economic climate. But that shouldn't stop advocates of the proposal from campaigning their fellow downtown property owners and business owners to support a dedicated revenue source for Mainstreet Steamboat and all that it does to support the downtown shopping and entertainment district. Without a dedicated source of revenue, Mainstreet — and thus downtown businesses — risk losing much of what's been accomplished in recent years.
That list is substantial. From the popular summer Farmers Market to the Chuckwagon Chili Challenge, Mainstreet Steamboat has created and organized numerous ongoing events that bring focus, foot traffic and revenue to downtown. More intangible is how the nonprofit group and its leader, Tracy Barnett, have lobbied much of the downtown business community and challenged it to be better through various initiatives. Mainstreet also is the group that works with the city and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association on behalf of the downtown business community.
Mainstreet's $140,000 operating budget for 2012 includes a $40,000 contribution from the city of Steamboat Springs. Mainstreet leaders are rightfully concerned that the city's contribution will continue to dwindle in future years. Securing a more permanent revenue source is necessary for Mainstreet's continued existence.
The business improvement district already is in place. Its boundaries are from Third to 13th streets and from Yampa to Oak streets. The district includes commercial, residential and mixed-use spaces, and the owners of each get to vote on business improvement district issues. Business owners also get a vote, even if they don't own the space in which their business operates.
The tax initiative being considered by Mainstreet Steamboat would be levied only on commercial property owners. However, the way most commercial leases are written means that any tax increase almost certainly would be passed on to the commercial tenants. A 1-mill tax would generate about $53,000 each year for the business improvement district. The cost to commercial property owners would be $29 for every $100,000 of actual property value. Revenues from the tax would be dispersed by a board of property owners who live within the district. In addition to potentially funding Mainstreet Steamboat's operations, the tax revenues also could be used to market and promote downtown Steamboat, as well as for other downtown-specific purposes.
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A previous business improvement district tax measure failed by just six votes in 2008. We support the current efforts of downtown property owners and business owners who are considering a tax on themselves for the betterment of downtown Steamboat.