Our View: Taxation needs representation
November 16, 2011
Steamboat Springs voters did right for the community when they overwhelmingly passed Referendum 2B on Nov. 1. Now, it's time for the broader community to have representation in the decision-making and oversight of how those funds are spent.
This Editorial Board supported Referendum 2B and asked voters to do the same. Our reasons were simple: The air service program that provides direct flights to Yampa Valley Regional Airport from major markets across the country is essential to our economy. Those flights and the visitors they bring to our city affect everyone in the community, regardless of occupation. Finally, the dire state of the air program's reserves necessitated a temporary 0.25 percent tax increase to boost the bottom line and the number of inbound airplane seats to Steamboat Springs each winter.
According to the terms of an intergovernmental agreement, the Local Marketing District board oversees the existing 2 percent accommodations tax as well as the new 0.25 percent sales tax. The five-member board is a public body that must provide public notice of its meetings as well as open and accessible business records of LMD dealings. The City Council must approve any contracts entered into by the LMD that propose the expenditure of public dollars from the accommodations tax and the 0.25 sales tax. That's as it should be.
But the passage of Referendum 2B should similarly result in increased representation on the LMD board from the community at-large. If this is not possible because of statutory requirements specific to the boundaries of the Local Marketing District, we challenge the LMD board and the City Council to create a solution that includes broader representation from the community.
Beginning Jan. 1, when the new tax takes effect, two-thirds of the funds used for the air program will be taxpayer dollars. The lodging industry already is well represented on the LMD board, and Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. has its nonvoting seats at the table. Who is representing other stakeholder groups, particularly now that a general sales tax applied to everything from groceries to underwear is providing funding to the air program?
The LMD board is in the midst of updating its bylaws, and the city must approve any changes. A draft of those proposed changes wasn't available this week. We hope the group has thought carefully about its representation in light of Referendum 2B. After all, members of the LMD board as well as Ski Corp. officials asked for more public participation in the airline program when they proposed the new sales tax and urged residents to pass it. Now, the board needs to follow its own lead. Appropriate changes should be made before the first dollars generated from the new tax are spent.