LMD thrown a ‘curveball’ by Steamboat council on proposed airline tax | SteamboatToday.com

LMD thrown a ‘curveball’ by Steamboat council on proposed airline tax

Resort Association employees from left Marion Tyler, Kara Stoller (then Givnish) and Morgan McDougald followed airline tax election returns on an iPad Tuesday with Ski Corp. Airline Program Director Janet Fischer in 2011. The tax was allowed to sunset in 2016, but resort officials are pursuing a new sales tax this year.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Mark Walker of Steamboat Citizens to Ensure Air Service said Friday he was surprised at the response of the Steamboat Springs City Council when he proposed going to the voters in November to seek a 0.2-percent sales tax to increase funding for direct flights into Yampa Valley Regional Airport, which has become a staple of winter tourism.

"Unfortunately, when we went to City Council, we did get thrown a bit of a curveball," Walker told members of the Local Marketing District board Friday.

Walker and Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Rob Perlman, representing Citizens to Ensure Air Service, an exploratory committee, approached City Council to ask them to consider putting a .02-percent, 10-year, general sales tax dedicated to airline service on the ballot. However, council members had plans of their own.

City Council President Jason Lacy observed that as more and more visitors arrive in the Yampa Valley it only puts more pressure on the city's free-to-rider Steamboat Springs Transit bus service.

“Why wouldn’t it make sense to have a 0.25 percent tax and send the extra money to Steamboat Springs Transit?" Lacy asked.

Asked by Local Marketing District member Rod Hanna if there was a sense of whether other council members shared Lacy's outlook, Perlman said, "I was at the podium. I kind of felt there were favorable results. I saw four or five heads nodding. What was resounding was their support of the air program and with us putting something on the ballot in November."

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"They pretty aggressively, after they got their momentum going." asserted that, "it's an airline tax, and airlines are transportation, and they wanted to take (the tax) back to 0.25 cents, with the extra 0.05 dedicated to some sort of transportation," Walker added.

Hanna saw promise in Lacy's idea.

"From a resort standpoint, it's a way that everyone in the resort community not only contributes (to the tax), but realizes some benefit," Hanna said. "The interesting point is, this is perceived as a locals benefit to help sustain the free bus system, which could help to encourage some people to vote for it."

City Council is scheduled to formally address the proposed tax June 5 and 15.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.

Background on Steamboat’s airline tax

• Steamboat Citizens to Ensure Air Service is advocating for a 0.2 percent sales tax that would remain in place for 10 years to help put up the revenue guarantees needed to attract airlines to Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

• The tax converts to 20 cents on a purchase of $100. If approved by voters, it would generate an estimated $1.2 to $1.3 million annually.

• The Local Marketing District is a panel of business and resort leaders formed by City Council to represent it in negotiations, along with Steamboat Springs Ski and Resort Corp. executives, with airlines and the revenue guarantees needed to secure air service. That effort is already partially funded by public monies in the form of a 2 percent lodging tax.

• If the 2018 tax is placed on the ballot and passes, it would not be the first time Steamboat voters have taken that step. A previous 0.25 percent tax for the same purpose passed with 61 percent of the vote in 2006. With a healthy reserve fund in place, the Marketing District recommended that City Council allow it to sunset in 2011.