Should a lodging tax help pay for art, culture?
The town of Vails mission statement includes this line: Were committed to providing citizens and guests with a superior level of environmentally sensitive services and an abundance of recreational, educational, and cultural opportunities. Vail is home to many nonprofits, which provide guests and citizens with educational and cultural opportunities the mission statement refers to. The Vail Valley Foundation, Bravo! Music Festival, Vail Jazz Foundation, Vail Symposium, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum are just a few of the nonprofits providing the Vail community with an abundance of diverse activities.As citizens, we tend to take for granted that we have such incredible opportunities right in our backyard. We automatically expect that these entities will continue to prosper and grow not worrying if they can continue to be successful when their funding sources dry up.Many of Vails residents sit on nonprofit boards, so they know that each of these nonprofits depends on tax-deductible donations, grants, membership dues, event sponsorship and participation fees to continue their work. Historically, during an economic downturn, all forms of giving are reduced. Nonprofits have submitted their annual contribution requests to the town of Vail, but contributions coming from its general fund (a portion of sales tax revenues and property tax) are limited. Vail Resorts may be forced to reduce its giving, focusing on fewer areas where it can make a larger impact. Other local companies may also be cutting back their donations and sponsorships, because so many sectors of business are down.These circumstances, coupled with the fact that Colorado ranks lowest in the country in the amount of donations its citizens make each year, places all of Vails nonprofits in a very difficult position. If you believe that educational and cultural opportunities help propel Vails businesses and fill its hotel rooms, then you realize any reductions or diminished quality in these opportunities will hurt our local economy.To help offset the funding challenges of Vails nonprofits, should the town consider an increase in the lodging tax and earmark it specifically to generate funds to support Vails cultural and educational opportunities? Revenues generated from a small incremental increase in the lodging tax would ensure that Vail could continue to have an abundance of opportunities well into the future, even during an economic downturn. Additionally, funds from this new tax would replace dollars currently being used from Vails general fund, thus freeing those dollars for other priorities.Keep in mind that, compared with other resorts and cities, our lodging taxes are miniscule; our current lodging tax is 9.8 percent, while double digit taxes are common elsewhere.Wed like to hear from our citizens and the lodging community. Would you support an assurance policy that would guarantee Vail remains a competitive resort with a superior level of environmentally-ensitive services and an abundance of recreational, educational, and cultural opportunities?The Vail Chamber & Business Association will continue to propose solutions to issues that positively affect the business community. If you support this assurance policy let us know; we are your communications conduit between businesses, the town of Vail and Vail Resorts. Mark your calendars: Our next community meeting will be in Lionshead at Billys Island Grill at 8 a.m. Aug. 6.Susie Tjossem is interim director of the Vail Chamber & Business Association and a member of the chambers board of directors.