Talks about Steamboat business improvement district tax to continue | SteamboatToday.com

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Talks about Steamboat business improvement district tax to continue

Mainstreet Steamboat Springs is considering asking downtown property owners, business owners and residents to consider a property tax to support a variety of services for the district. While residents would vote for the tax, only commercial property owners would pay it.

— There was support for and objection to a business improvement district property tax measure this November at the Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Economic Restructuring Committee meeting Wednesday, but everyone agreed that the discussion needs to continue.

Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett told the group she was encouraged to pursue a tax for the district that includes the area roughly between Third and 13th streets and Yampa to Oak streets because the city's financial support for the organization that promotes downtown continues to decline. She said the city will provide $40,000 of Mainstreet's $140,000 overall budget in 2012, down from a high of $63,000.

Barnett said a business improvement district property tax would provide a stable funding source that could pay for the Mainstreet program, marketing and promotion of the downtown district and services for businesses.

A tax would be considered by property owners, business owners and residents of the narrowly defined district, but only commercial property owners would be assessed the tax, Barnett said. She said residential property owners wouldn't pay the tax.

Economic Restructuring Committee member Randy Rudasics said he didn't think there was enough time to educate district stakeholders and put together a campaign. He suggested possibly delaying an election to 2013.

Committee member Frank Dolman also said 2012 was the wrong year for a tax measure. Dolman said he had five concerns that would lead to its failure — the ongoing economic recession and uncertainty about when it will end; a poor snow year impacting businesses; anti-government anger; anti-tax sentiment in general; and depressed real estate in Routt County.

"All that cumulative effect makes voting against something easy," Dolman said. "… I'm just concerned that this year, with these elements, can I — can we — do enough educating to convince the naysayers?"

Mainstreet Board of Directors President Bill Moser said he thought the organization had come a long way since a tax measure to fund the business improvement district failed by six votes in 2008. He is "cautiously optimistic" it would pass this year.

Barnett said that based on the value of downtown properties — more than $53 million in assessed valuation and $203 million in actual value — a 1-mill increase would generate about $53,000 for the business improvement district. Revenues from the tax would be dispersed by a board of property owners who live within the district.

She said if a 2012 ballot issue passed, the property tax increase would take effect in 2013.

Routt County Assessor Gary Peterson, who didn't attend the meeting, said Wednesday afternoon that the 2011 mill rate in the downtown district that will be paid this year is just more than 42 mills. He said a 1-mill increase would cost commercial property owners $29 per $100,000 of actual property value.

The Mainstreet Economic Restructuring Committee will reconvene Feb. 8 for a special meeting to start working on a plan to engage downtown stakeholders about the tax and why some think it might be necessary.

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com