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A BID for better

Kaye Ferry

And what’s this got to do with the town of Vail? Raising money. $$$. Pure and simple. Cash.

But why? Well, It’s quickly approaching budget time, and that means the list of anticipated expenses should theoretically be offset by projected revenues. But that’s not the case for the next year or so.

“Cut” is the operative word at Town Hall. Before Bob McLaurin left for the north, he attempted to get the financial picture for 2004 in some kind of order. Departments were mandated to cut back. Vacated positions were left empty. Services were reviewed. And he created a hit list.

But let’s back up a minute. For some time, certain members of the Town Council have been suggesting that the business community become responsible for the services that they view as important. Let’s bring that philosophy with the BID and the hit list.

The hit list totaled $1.2 million and included the Commission on Special Events, Vail Chamber and Business Association, Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau, information services, Street Beat, Hot Summer Nights, Vail Jazz Festival, Bravo, International Dance Festival and First Descents.

Some of these programs are quite separate from the day-to-day needs of the business community. But some of them are absolutely basic to its survival. Let’s take information services. How do you run a resort without an information booth? Or two? Or special events? And what of the cultural events that we have historically provided, i.e. Bravo?

Rather than tolerate the notion of these hits actually occurring, the VCBA decided to tackle the question head on.

Which is precisely why you need to understand what it all means. First, the VCBA has taken the lead because it clearly understands the ramifications of the elimination of these services and events. For example, will the Town Council actually vote to eliminate all funding for the information booths? Who knows? And the list includes more. Are they also worth risking? Do we want to wait until the ax falls? The opinion of the VCBA Board is no. What possible solutions are available?

The notion of a BID came from the Town Council – it was their suggestion. But here’s the glitch. They can’t impose it on the business community. The business community has to bring it to them in the form of a petition to create an ordinance. Which we agreed to explore, at their request. A Denver BID attorney was consulted to review criteria.

First, the business license fee in its current form will have to reduced to a nominal tracking fee – maybe $25. Additionally, there is an endless way for arriving at an assessment for a BID. The key here being that before the business community agrees to tax itself for a BID, the business license fee in its current structure will have to go away.

Second, autonomy is imperative. The business community will not voluntarily tax itself and then have the funds diverted for roads, etc. Until the Town Council agrees upon these two issues, no further action will be taken by the VCBA.

Let’s say the Town Council agrees. The VCBA intends to step back and ask a BID committee to be formed that would have the responsibility of formulating the petition, which would outline the governing and finance details. It would also get the petition before the Town Council. If they accepted it, there would be a board election which will coincide with Vail Recreation District elections, by state statute, in May of even numbered years. At that time, a vote on revenue and spending limits would also take place.

Oh, by the way. This board would be accountable – to the business community – each year at election time. They’d be accountable in the same way the Town Council is accountable. Maybe that’s what’s scaring everyone. As a safety net, the VCBA has suggested a two-year sunset clause. This gives a bailout option to the BID if it’s not meeting the business community’s needs.

If and when all of that were completed, the newly formed board would accept applications from all of the entities on the hit list and anyone else that wants to apply. Each group would have to plead its case and prove its value. But this is NOT – and I can’t say it enough – not another organization. Who said anything about another bureaucracy with too much overhead? It is simply a mechanism through which funding for services and events would be channeled. It would provide the monies through an application process, but not the services and events themselves.

Interestingly, those who can vote and those who can serve differ from normal town of Vail boards. Anyone who pays real or personal property tax in the defined commercial area would be eligible, provided they are registered to vote in the state of Colorado. Residency in the town Vail is not a requirement. So FINALLY, business owners who live outside of town limits would have a say on how some of their tax dollars were spent.

And why is this on the editorial page? To get it straight. Agree or not, you can’t make a decision with the facts all screwed up. And it doesn’t serve any purpose to quote people who don’t know what they are talking about.

But it all may be a moot point. So far, it appears that this council wants to do what it always does – control. They don’t seem to be willing to let the business community voluntarily raise funds and then decide how to spend those funds. There is no trust. This has switched from the council asking for our help to them acting like they’re doing us a favor.

But I’ll say it once again. It is not about the VCBA. It’s not about the VCBA doing promotions. In fact, if the VCBA started doing marketing, it’d get in deep trouble and is currently prohibited from even applying for special event funding. Those are jobs for the CSE and VLMD.

It’s about the budget. It’s about not enough money. It’s about everything on the hit list and their value to the community. It’s about doing away with the services that are important. And a BID might be a solution.

If you’ve got a better idea, let’s hear it. What’s old saying? If you’re not part of the solution … . So don’t just sit home and throw tomatoes. The public discussion for this is May 20. Be informed and get involved.

Updates: Sorry, the $155,000 for gymnastics – $5,000 is for a study and $150,000 is for construction to be partnered with other still-be-to-be-determined entities for a roughly $2 million project. The town of Vail will also contribute another $375,000 coming from its deal with the water district. It has already spent $20,000 for the relocation to Avon.

Do your part, call them and write them.

To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860 ext 8 or e-mail towncouncil@ci.vail.co.us

To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail vailinfo@vailresorts.com

For past columns, vaildaily.com-search:ferry

Kaye Ferry, founding president of the Vail Chamber and Business Association, is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes weekly.


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