Parks and recreation taxing district to be discussed at work session next week
June 18, 2014
If you go
What: Parks and Recreation Commission Meeting
When: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Where: Citizen’s Hall
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs’ Parks and Recreation Commission next week will get a crash course in how other communities in Colorado have created taxing districts to fund their recreational amenities.
The city has invited Steve Russell, executive director of the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District, to talk to the commission Wednesday night at a public work session about his district and how it works.
Formed in 1980 to build a community swimming pool, Russell’s district now oversees more than $20 million of facilities and is funded annually by a property tax.
Russell’s trip to Steamboat comes as city officials and parks and recreation commissioners in Steamboat have been having some informal conversations about the prospect of creating some form of a parks and recreation district here.
Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Director John Overstreet said the topic came up most recently at a focus group meeting about the future of Howelsen Hill.
“They were asking the question of how they are structured,” Overstreet said. “It really depends on if it’s a city-only district. It could be a regional district. It could be a county-wide district. There are a lot of nuances involved.”
Some community members also raised the issue at a separate public meeting on Howelsen, saying they would be willing to pay a tax to support the park.
Next week’s work session on the taxing district was requested last week by parks and recreation commissioner Doug Tumminello.
The Steamboat City Council on Tuesday night discussed the upcoming work session, with some questioning about whether or not the parks and recreation commission was the appropriate group to start that dialogue.
“Is the parks and recreation commission tasked with figuring out a taxation district, or isn’t that our job?” council member Scott Myller asked. “That might be our job, not theirs.”
Council member Sonja Macys also said she was uncomfortable with the commission taking up the topic.
“With this being an issue of possible change in taxation, it’s an issue that should come up through City Council,” she said.
Other council members were more comfortable with the conversation starting with the parks and recreation commission and labeled the meeting as educational.
Scott Ford said he was looking forward to learning more about a system he’s not too familiar with.
City Manager Deb Hinsvark told the council a parks and recreation district would be a separate form of government, and it was “absolutely in the parks and recreation commission’s purview to take a look at it and see if it’s a government they want to pursue.”
The funding of Steamboat’s vast portfolio of recreational amenities has long been a hot topic.
Many of the city’s amenities require annual subsidies from the general fund to operate, and parks and recreation competes for dollars with essential city services.
However, a special district could increase the funding burden on area taxpayers.
Next week’s work session on the topic marks the first time in recent years the topic has formally been added to any agenda.
What do you think about the prospect of a parks and recreation taxing district here? Leave a comment below.