Some fear potential tax overload as community groups eye 2017 ballot initiatives in Steamboat Springs
January 17, 2017
Steamboat Springs — With as many as six or seven local tax initiatives possibly heading for the ballot in 2017, some community groups are starting to take steps they hope will prevent a case of tax heartburn in the electorate that dooms them all.
"I think everyone recognizes that if we all go with a (tax) question, there's a likelihood most, if not all of us, would not be successful," Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Brad Meeks said Tuesday.
It's likely the school district will ask voters to support some property tax increase to fund a new facility to accommodate increasing enrollment.
Discussions about what to ask voters for are still ongoing.
But the school district is far from the only entity that is eyeing new tax revenue to address its needs.
Other potential tax measures headed for the ballot this year include:
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• A request from the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association for marketing funding
• A property tax proposal to better fund parks and recreation amenities
• A sin tax on marijuana and alcohol sales to fund substance abuse prevention and treatment
• Some form of a property tax to improve the fiscal sustainability of the city government
• A third try to get a downtown business improvement district funded with a property tax.
There are an additional four potential tax initiatives that are viewed by some in the community as less likely to appear on the ballot this year but could go before voters as soon as 2018.
"There's really nothing on the list that is outrageous," Meeks said of the potential 2017 proposals as he recounted how members of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association board recently reacted to the list. "It all seems like reasonable practical things. But we can't all come to the ballot with all of these or even a majority of these."
The Chamber has compiled a list of all of the potential tax initiatives along with a gauge of how likely they are of actually going on the ballot.
Meeks said the Chamber board was viewed as a logical starting point to discuss all of the potential tax measures because the board has representation from the school district, the city, the county and other groups that may put forward tax questions.
Meeks said the goal of the exercise is to create awareness about the breadth of the proposals and get the groups behind them to start thinking strategically about placing tax issues on the ballot.
"Maybe strategically there are ways these groups could work together and support each other," Meeks said.
Several of the initiatives that involve a sales tax increase would have to be approved by the Steamboat Springs City Council before they could even end up on the ballot.
Main Street Steamboat Springs Executive Director Lisa Popovich said on Tuesday the city has unofficially asked the group to pursue a BID — business improvement district — tax question this year.
Popovich said Main Street plans to reach out to downtown business and property owners about what kinds of maintenance and upkeep they would want a BID to fund.
"It would not put in new sidewalks, but it could help to shovel the sidewalks," she said.