Vail voters may see two tax questions this fall
One proposal would fund housing, the other marketing
Vail voters this year may see two tax increase questions. A proposed sales tax increase would fund housing, while an increase in the town’s lodging tax would fund events and marketing.
The Vail Town Council on Tuesday afternoon saw the results of a survey gauging support for both of those proposals. David Feherty of Magellan Strategies presented the data.
The survey was conducted mostly via text message, and was conducted among registered Vail voters. In all, 665 people responded to the survey. That’s roughly half the number of people who vote in Vail town elections, which are held in odd-numbered years.
A similar survey in 2019, also conducted by Magellan, showed residents believed housing was a “big” problem in town.
Things have changed in two years.
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Most residents still believe housing is a big problem. But unlike 2019, when 51% opposed a new tax, there is now majority support for a sales tax to fund housing.
50 cents on a $100 purchase
That possible increase — 0.5%, with food and groceries exempted — could raise as much as $3.5 million per year for housing. If approved, the sales tax rate increase would be the first since 1974.
There’s less support for a new levy to support marketing and events. This is where things get a little complicated.
The Vail Local Marketing District imposes a lodging tax to support summer marketing. By state law, money raised from that tax can only be used for marketing and support efforts.
A 2.2% increase in that levy could raise as much as $5 million per year.
The Magellan survey found majority support for that possible tax, but Feherty acknowledged that the question could be defeated, despite the fact that lodging taxes are generally more palatable to voters.
Feherty said increasing the marketing tax — which hasn’t been increased since the district was created in 1999 — faces potential headwinds from voters.
If Vail voters feel like the town is too crowded, the measure could fail, Feherty said.
Is Vail too busy now?
There was some of that sentiment in comments from voters.
One respondent, a female between the ages of 45 and 54, wrote, “If the town can’t solve the housing issue, there will be no one to work for restaurants, shops and other businesses. It seems foolish to increase tourism and before securing long term housing.”
There was also sentiment to either ban or further tax short-term rentals. Town Attorney Matt Mire told the council that its members could impose a fee on those rentals without having to go to voters.
Mayor Pro Tem Kim Langmaid, who ran Tuesday’s meeting in Mayor Dave Chapin’s absence, said the tax could be pitched as a way to improve the visitor experience, since money could be used to “mitigate impacts on natural resources.”
In an evening-meeting discussion about the report, Council member Kevin Foley suggested foregoing the marketing tax request, asking instead for a new lodging tax of 1.6% to fund housing. That option wasn’t part of the Magellan survey.
The clock is ticking on making a decision about asking voters for money. Ballot questions have to be certified by the Eagle County Clerk and Recorder’s Office no later than Sept. 3. That means the council will have to make a decision about the possible ballot questions at its Aug. 17 meeting.
82%: Vail residents between 18 and 44 who believe housing is a big problem.
68%: Women who believe Vail housing is a big problem.
59%: Vail residents between 45 and 64 who believe housing is a big problem.
48%: Vail residents aged 65 and older who believe housing is a big problem.
Source: Magellan Strategies, town of Vail