Steamboat Parks and Recreation commissioners want to meet with Routt County officials to discuss prospect of parks and rec district
August 13, 2014
Steamboat Springs — Parks and Recreation Commission members in Steamboat Springs want to meet with Routt County officials soon to gauge how they feel about a potential regional parks and recreation taxing district as well as any other alternative ways of funding recreation amenities.
The commissioners also resolved to continue learning more about the districts that typically use a property tax to fund such amenities.
The direction came Wednesday night after the commission learned more about how such districts are funded and formed.
Denver-based attorney Dee Wisor talked for about an hour about districts and the logistics behind how they come to be.
Wisor has experience in public financing and bonding.
The city of Steamboat Springs’ attorney and finance director were present and taking notes during Wisor’s talk.
Commissioners have stressed their research at this time purely is for educational purposes.
Wisor said a parks and recreation district starts with community members creating a service plan for a district that would need to be approved by the governing bodies for a region, such as a city council and board of county commissioners.
It also would involve a successful petition and an election.
“The recreation district can be a powerful tool,” Wisor said.
But he also cautioned that just like a city recreation department’s reliance on sales tax, a recreation district’s reliance on property tax can distress the budget in an economic downturn.
He also said many of the recreation districts in Colorado were formed decades ago.
That could mean the creation of one here could be more complicated.
“If you want to get more revenue and not change the governance (of the parks and recreation department), there are other ways to do it,” Wisor said.
Commissioner Jenette Settle said it sounded “great” to have a parks and recreation district but wanted to know more about the startup costs.
Wisor said the initial stages, including an election, could cost anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000.
A new district also could entail some added costs for parks and recreation management with the need for its own human resources person, auditor and lawyer.
Parks and recreation departments, including Steamboat’s, have these employees who work across multiple departments.
Commissioner Frank Dolman said that before the group continues to look at alternative funding mechanisms for this city’s parks and recreation amenities, it first needs to clearly outline what the problem is.
“What’s not getting done?” he asked city staff and his fellow commissioners.
Answers mentioned by city staff and the commissioners included such things as a lower amount of trail and open space maintenance than other communities in the state, aging infrastructure at Howelsen Hill, the desire for a recreation center here and the potential to acquire new land for future park amenities right now.
“There is a list, and a long list,” Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department Director John Overstreet said.
Wednesday’s presentation from Wisor marked the second time in recent months this city’s Parks and Recreation Commission has hosted a discussion about recreation districts.
In June, Steve Russell, the executive director of the West Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District, talked to commissioners about how a community effort to build a swimming pool in Eagle 34 years ago evolved into a countywide recreation district that has brought millions of dollars’ worth of new parks, recreation centers and ice rinks to Eagle, Edwards and Gypsum.