Michael Robinson: On partnerships …
Vail Valley Partnership, President/CEO
Last Tuesday evening, the Vail Valley Partnership was able to do something I’ve looked forward to since arriving in the valley 10 months ago.
We stated our position to the Vail Town Council. It was developed by a task force and vetted by our full lodging community, and it supported the needs of the business community. For those of you who missed the council meeting, the Vail Valley Partnership led the charge to town council for a serious reconsideration of an effort to reallocate funds that were originally collected by lodges and businesses in Vail for the purpose of building a conference center. Since voters rejected a conference center plan, that money has been in limbo.
In an early March column, I reminded readers that the conference center taxes were comprised of a half-cent sales tax and a 1.5 percent lodging tax. It is estimated this fund will reach approximately $9 million when the November 2007 election rolls around. That town election will probably have a ballot issue about how to reallocate the money.
In anticipation of the potential ballot question, town staff has been working with Public Opinion Strategies to create a telephone poll to probe voter interest for various reallocation scenarios.
The Vail Valley Partnership jumped into this discussion since the business community bore the sole risk from this tax ” and did so because it had agreed to the use to attract visitors.
Since the lion’s share of funds came from the lodging tax, we believe it is only fair that the lodging community’s suggestions on how the funds be spent be taken into account. The Vail Lodging Task Force was assembled to work with the town to gain a better understanding of the options. It then took its recommendations to the Partnership’s full lodging committee for discussion.
So at last Tuesday’s town council meeting, the Partnership took an assertive, and perhaps not the most popular, position to urge council to reassess the need to poll voters. The conference center taxes were originally collected to attract visitors to Vail ” more “heads and beds.” Whether the funds are used for facility improvements or marketing support, the lodging community is adamant that the money be used to honor their original intent ” bringing guests to Vail.
Members of the lodging and business community overwhelmingly supported our voice.
An opinion poll may still be put forth, but the council is now aware the Partnership’s Vail Lodging Task Force is willing to work with them to craft language so the money on hand is used in the spirit in which it was collected.
I thank the council for opening this discussion to the public and for considering the comments of the lodging community. Tuesday night was an example of council doing its job, serving in the best interest of community and giving issues due diligence.
The Partnership now looks forward to working with the town to ensure the best use of these funds. We are hopeful that at the April 17 town council meeting, a plan will be approved that honors the voice of the business community and serves the greater economic needs of the town of Vail. Stay tuned.