Routt County Commissioners urge allowing use of airline sales tax for summer flights | SteamboatToday.com

Routt County Commissioners urge allowing use of airline sales tax for summer flights

County commissioners urge use of tax revenue for summer flights







— The Routt County Board of Commissioners is sending a letter encouraging the Local Marketing District board and Steamboat Springs City Council to allow a portion of the $1.5 million that is generated annually by a 0.25 percent general city sales tax dedicated to securing airline service to be spent on summer flight service as well as ski season service.

The tax, which has been in place since January 2012 after being approved by a large majority of city voters in November 2011, is up for its five-year renewal in the November election.

The LMD works with airline program managers at Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. to use airline revenue guarantees, which are backed by more than $1 million from Ski Corp. as well as the public dollars, to contract for commercial airline service at the Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

"We believe that allowing the quarter-cent sales tax to be used year round to create the largest impact on enplanements and the local economy, rather than just the winter season, would be a significant improvement," the letter reads. "Giving the LMD board the same flexibility with the sales tax as they currently have with the lodging tax would allow them to respond to unforeseen and changing conditions and even better support our regional asset at Yampa Valley Regional Airport."

City Finance Director Kim Weber confirmed Monday that under the terms of an intergovernmental agreement between the LMD and Ski Corp., which was approved by City Council, the annual proceeds of the 0.25 percent sales tax are currently dedicated to winter flights.

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Funds for summer flights, such as direct jet service from Houston and Dallas in 2016, are funded from a separate pool of money generated by a 2 percent lodging tax on properties within the LMD boundary. That tax generated about $1.56 million last year, according to Weber. The majority of those funds also are committed to winter flights from major markets.

LMD Board President Bob Milne said Monday his board has yet to discuss ballot language but will begin the process at its next meeting May 20. He added that he welcomed the input from the county commissioners as well as from others.

County Commissioner Cari Hermacinski said Monday she drafted the letter in the context of wanting to generate more revenue to underwrite operations at the self-funded, county-owned Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

County officials watched their airport revenues, which peaked in about 2008, dwindle during the Great Recession and reported they have been slow to come back as smaller airliners fly the Steamboat route. YVRA depends heavily on the collection of airline landing fees, which are based on the weight of aircraft, and fees it collects on the "land side" to fund its operations.

Since then, airline officials report passengers numbers have grown in two successive ski seasons with the help of new cities like Seattle and Washington D.C. added to the flight program.

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

If you go…

What: Meeting of the Steamboat Springs Local Marketing District to discuss issues relating to commercial airline service here.

When: 10 a.m., May 20

Where: Citizens Hall in Centennial Hall, 124 10th St., Steamboat Springs