Steamboat Springs City Council talking taxes
January 26, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs City Council is starting to do some research that might eventually lead to asking voters for a new source of revenue for city services.
The council earlier this month asked its finance department to generate a report looking at the revenue streams in other mountain resort and peer communities on the Western Slope.
"When you see that, I think it will tell a story," City Manager Gary Suiter said.
Steamboat is unique in the list of Colorado municipalities because it does not fund its government services with a property tax.
Council President Jason Lacy said he wants to see how Steamboat compares to other communities in terms of sales tax, property tax, marijuana taxes, lift ticket taxes, taxes on cigarettes and alcohol and accommodations taxes.
"And then I'd like to see some examples of what kinds of revenues we could raise on different rates on those different taxes," he said.
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In recent months, elected officials here have raised the prospect of asking voters for a new source of funding to pay for things ranging from the upkeep of Howelsen Hill to fire and emergency services.
"It would be nice to see what other municipalities are doing, and what the cons of those options are," Councilwoman Lisel Petis said.
The research heading to the council will also include pros and cons for potential tax questions ranging from lift ticket taxes to cigarette taxes to a tax on the innertubes hundreds of people buy in the Yampa Valley to float the river.
The last vote the council took on a tax proposal came in August 2016, when the council narrowly passed on a proposal to add an additional 2 percent tax on the sales of marijuana, alcohol and smokeless tobacco in the city limits.
Revenue from that tax was envisioned to be spent on substance abuse treatment and prevention efforts.
Councilman Scott Ford said this week he thought it was too early yet to say whether the city would seek a new source of revenue this year.
He also weighed in on the city's financial status and explained some of the recent discussions about diversifying revenue come as the city's expenses recently exceeded its revenue stream for the first time in recent years.
"We're not in a huge financial crisis, but we've got a serious financial challenge ahead of us," Ford said.
The tax question that the council appears to be looking into the most seriously at the moment is a potential move to form a unified fire district with a dedicated funding source, such as a property tax.
Fire Chief Mel Stewart told the council earlier this month he thought it was time to ask the community for a dedicated source of funding for firefighting and EMS services.
“We’re seeing an increase in calls and demand for services, and we don’t have any way for us to grow and meet those demands right now,” Stewart said.