Steamboat City Council hits the brakes on recreation taxing district discussion
July 3, 2014
Steamboat Springs — The Steamboat Springs City Council does not share its Parks and Recreation Commission’s early enthusiasm about exploring a possible parks and recreation taxing district.
Without a clear understanding of what problem a district would be formed to solve, the council on Tuesday night made it clear it is not going to start looking into forming one right now.
Some said the idea would need to advance out of a grassroots effort.
The council’s hesitation came after the volunteer Parks and Recreation Commission last week reacted very positively to a presentation about the success of a taxing district in Western Eagle County.
Other communities in Colorado have formed parks and recreation districts backed by property tax revenue to pay for their recreational amenities and programs.
They can come in many varieties and include just one city or span an entire region.
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Spending decisions in the district are made by elected boards.
Districts also generate their revenue through user fees.
In Steamboat, parks and recreation amenities are funded out of the city’s general fund and compete for dollars with other essential services like police, fire services and other capital projects.
Some commissioners said such a system sounded "too good to be true" and could be a "no brainer."
Council members indicated they don’t want the dialogue about any sort of district to advance beyond the educational phase at this time.
"I’m not interested in looking at any of these special taxing districts," Council President Bart Kounovsky said. "This is a community thing. Until that community piece gets to me (and citizens ask for it), I’m not interested at looking at any of these taxing districts. They’re the ones who are going to have to approve it at the end of the day, not us."
Walter Magill agreed.
"It’s a larger city issue," he said. "Let’s stop it here until it’s grassroots and brought to us."
Council member Sonja Macys said it would be premature for the council to talk about any special taxing districts until "we talk about what a taxing district needs."
"What problem are we trying to solve?" she asked.
The council endorsed Macys’ request to ask the Parks and Recreation Commission to inform the council of the problems it would be trying to solve through the exploration of a different revenue or taxation model.
Macys also made it clear that she was uncomfortable with the commission continuing to discuss a possible parks and recreation district on its own.
"I think this is something the city needs to have a conversation on whether we want to move forward with this," she said. "I’m uncomfortable with Parks and Recreation exploring this on their own."
Council member Tony Connell said before the city starts looking at any specific kind of taxing district, it should hold a workshop to look at other services and their revenue sources, including transportation and fire.
City Manager Deb Hinsvark said there are many kinds of parks and recreation districts, and the commission has heard only about one form of them.
"I do think they plan to hear more about districts because they don’t know much (about them) at this point," she said.