Constructing a budget for 2003 and beyond
However, the lions-share of proposed expenditures – about $60 million – would target Vail’s crumbling commercial cores in hopes energize the town’s sluggish economy.
Neighborhood streets and parks will have to wait until $750 million in promised private redevelopment have taken root in the town’s two commercial cores and town revenues are growing again.
For 2003, Vail Town Manager Bob McLaurin says he expects revenues to stay the same as this year, meaning $5 million in sales taxes plus $1 million from various other funding sources will be all the capital projects fund has to spend, if no new money is found and revenues stay steady.
That means funding for a dozen public projects – from new plazas and heated walks in the Vail Village to a new pedestrian portal and transportation center in Lionshead – will have to be found to get the town going once again.
“We are going to invest all this capital, and the return is going to come in 2006,” said McLaurin. “And we are going to struggle in the meantime.”
Vail’s much-ballyhooed “renaissance” – or “rebirth” – depends largely on the creation of a series of private and public partnerships and the adoption of tax financing tools, such as Tax Increment Financing.
First up this November, the Vail Town Council is banking on Vail voters’ to approve a property tax hike for an additional annual $2.25 million.
The increase, says Vail Councilman Chuck Ogilby, is critical to Vail’s emergence from a decade-long sales tax slump that has resulted in collections flat-lining at about $15 million a year.
“The biggest challenge for us as the Town Council is to ask everybody to get on board with us with this plan,” says Ogilby. “The emphasis has to be that we need to rebuild our infrastructure to keep up with $750 million in 21 different projects. That’s 50 percent of the private development in town getting redone – and that is huge. We haven’t seen that kind of redevelopment since the 70s, when Vail was built. This is a huge opportunity, and without the community’s support, we aren’t going to get anywhere. We need that support.”
If the tax hike fails, council members will have to look at other ways to raise money – from a use tax to business-improvement districts to a repeat of the property tax question.
If a property tax hike is approved, the town may ask voters next fall bond against the increase for about $20 million or an annual added cash flow of $4 million. Private developers, council members hope will fork over between $20 million to $30 million in contributions to spruce up public areas around their properties as they redevelop.
“We are gambling that what we are doing is going to fix this town,” says Ogilby. “The bottom line is when it is all done Vail will have new revitalized streets and plazas. The sewer and water systems will be rebuilt. Lionshead will be completely rebuilt and the village will be revitalized, as well.”
With dwindling sales taxes making up half of Vail’s income, council members have to chart a financing course that is both conservative and bold, freeing up enough money to take advantage of private projects breaking ground, but not breaking the piggy bank for necessary infrastructure maintenance and expenditures related to public safety.
Ogilby says Vail residents have to understand that the goal is to keep the town’s current assets in good shape and make the necessary investments in fire and police protection. Beyond that, he says, is go big and do everything to keep the town in step with private redevelopment.
“We are looking for the overall good of Vail five to 10 years from now,” Ogilby says.
Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at email@example.com.