Group proposes tripling Vail lodging tax
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –Tough times call for tough decisions – that’s one reason why group of Vail business people is proposing the town of Vail consider a lodging tax increase.
The group, Vail Citizens for Action, wants to stir up conversation within the town – specifically among the candidates running for the four open council seats in November – about how the town can stay afloat during tough economic times.
“We’re in a new normal and it’s critical that we continue the good things about the guest services in Vail,” said Beth Slifer, a Vail Citizens for Action member. “(The town needs to) recognize we are no longer in a boom economy and we have to do things a little bit differently.”
The town’s lodging tax is currently 1.4 percent – the group proposes the town more than triple it to 4.4 percent.
Town Manager Stan Zemler said the group’s idea is something that’s “been floating around the last month.” He said it hasn’t been discussed formally, but he said it’s intriguing.
“I think it’s worth putting out there for some community discussion,” Zemler said.
Any tax increase would have to go to the voters, but the Vail Citizens for Action group thinks a tax that voters wouldn’t have to pay is more attractive during a slower economy.
The Vail Local Marketing District is the entity that collects the lodging tax that pays for things like town marketing efforts and special events. The increase in the lodging tax would double the district’s budget and the Commission on Special Events’ budget, freeing up money within the general fund that helps pay for these programs, say proponents of the idea.
“I don’t think anybody is terribly in favor of a tax increase – we need a discussion about the challenges we do face,” said Kent Logan, a Vail Citizens for Action member and former town councilman. “We need to reposition the Vail brand in a new world.”
Real estate development has been the main generator of Vail’s growth, but now the economic engine is going to change to tourism, Logan said.
The redevelopment boom has created a more desirable Vail, Slifer said, and now it’s time to up the ante in attracting people to fill the hotel and condominium beds the town has added.
“A 4.5 percent tax would be a great boom to what I believe the community needs: more marketing and world class special events,” Slifer said. “We need to be doing everything we can to bring people in to take advantage of the new assets we’ve built in the last five years.”
The fact the tax could relieve pressure on the town’s operating budget is appealing to Zemler. The town is confident in its budgeting through 2011, but “it starts to get pretty challenging after that,” Zemler said. The town recently laid off a town planner and shaved several other items from its budget.
The town’s 2010 budget was proposed with a $140,000 deficit, but Zemler said things have changed since the council meeting last week.
“We’re going to bring in a balanced budget on the 6th (of October) for 2010,” Zemler said. “There’s no more deficit anymore for 2010.”
The idea that more marketing can help Vail through the sluggish economy is something Vail Citizens for Action say works. The council put $500,000 more toward marketing last winter and it paid off, Logan said.
Slifer said a 4.5 percent lodging tax is tiny in the scheme of things. She pointed out that destinations like New York City and even Beaver Creek have double-digit lodging taxes.
“Most guests do not inquire about the total cost of their room when they’re making a decision about where to stay,” Slifer said. “(The tax increase) should not be a deterrent to our guests.”
Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com