Vail will survey voters about possible tax hike issues
Funds would be used for housing, marketing and events
Vail voters in the next couple of weeks will see a survey invitation on their phones. The idea is to gauge interest in possible new funding to help pay for housing, marketing initiatives and events.
The survey will be conducted via text, and run by Magellan Strategies and Summit Information Services. Results will be presented to the Vail Town Council at its Aug. 3 meeting.
Vail Town Council members Tuesday looked over several possible options for questions, each involving a specific new source of revenue.
The biggest single boost — for housing — would come from a 0.5% increase in the town’s sales tax. That tax could raise an estimated $3.5 million per year.
Council members favored that idea, but only if the tax didn’t apply to grocery purchases.
In comparison, a 1 mill property tax increase — roughly $290 for every $1 million of a home’s value — would raise about $1.3 million per year.
Another possible tax, on short-term rentals — which David Flaherty of Summit Information Systems called “potentially popular” — would raise roughly $1.5 million per year, if the tax was 5% of nightly rates.
For marketing and events, possibilities include increasing the town’s lodging tax. The amount of the increase would determine how funds could be used.
Doubling the tax from its current 1.4% to 2.8% would raise about $3 million per year. Raising the tax to 3.6% would provide an additional $2 million per year for events.
Council member Kim Langmaid said marketing funds might be an easier sell to voters if the focus shifted from just “destination marketing” and included “destination management.” Management would focus on sustainability and other topics, Langmaid said.
“A combination of marketing and management would be more thoughtful,” Langmaid said.
Vail Economic Development Director Mia Vlaar noted that a dedicated fund for 12-month marketing would allow those efforts to be more “mindful” of environmental and other issues.
Council member Jenn Bruno noted that if the town moves ahead with marketing and not housing funding, people need to be aware of possible costs to the broader economy. Bruno noted that Sedona, Arizona, has stopped marketing its destination because businesses don’t have the staff to take care of more guests.
Mayor Dave Chapin said he favors the higher lodging tax.
“I don’t think tourists look at sales and lodging taxes (when traveling),” Chapin said, adding he favored an increase in the short-term lodging tax.
Town Attorney Matt Mire said an increase in short-term lodging taxes might not have to go to voters for approval, noting there are ways to increase fees instead of raising taxes.
While discussing options, council members said they want to be sure to ask voters about questions with a chance of passing.
Flaherty said the survey over the next couple of weeks will reach more than 50% of the town’s registered voters. The texts will be followed by phone calls, if needed.
Here’s a look at various ideas for raising permanent funding sources for housing, marketing and events.
• A sales tax increase (housing). Groceries would be exempt.
• A short-term rental tax (housing)
• Lodging tax increase (for marketing and, perhaps, events)
The Vail Town Council will see survey results at its Aug. 3 meeting.