Tax hikes head for November ballot
Over the course of the town’s 40 years, for example, only two of eight tax increases have survived the polls.
Nevertheless, the Vail Town Council on Tuesday boldly passed a pair of resolutions, making way for two such questions to be placed on the Nov. 7 ballot.
Times are tough and finances are tight, council members reasoned.
“It will be a tough sell,” said Town Councilwoman Diana Donovan.
“It won’t be easy,” added Town Councilman Dick Cleveland.
First, voters will be asked to approve a 4 mill increase in property taxes, representing about $40 in new property taxes per $100,000 in a home’s market value, or $120 for commercial properties. If voters allow it, the increase would bring in an estimated $2.25 million in additional revenues, to be used for the maintenance of town infrastructure, as well as some capital projects.
Secondly, voters will be asked to approve a half-percent increase in the town’s 4 percent sales tax, as well as a 1.5-percent increase on short-term lodging accommodations. The estimated $2 million in revenue generated from the sales tax hike would go towards paying off $46 million in debt incurred in selling bonds to fund a new conference center in Lionshead. The sales tax portion of the increase would end once the facility is paid off.
While the latter appears to be supported by the lodging community and promises to bring in an additional $10 million into the local economy as soon as the conference center is built, the former tax hike will indeed be a tough sell.
With Vail Town Manager Bob McLaurin encouraged the council Tuesday to “go out and make the case” for a property tax increase.
“Bricks and mortar are always popular with voters,” he explained.
Council members struggled, however, with a list of projects.
Council members, having instructed McLaurin to cut $1 million out of the town’s operational budget for 2003, said Tuesday the tax question will likely lead to an open-ended answer.
“No birthday presents,” said Donovan, adding that any additional revenues unlikely will go towards special “monster buildings,” such as an ice rink or a gymnastics facility.
Vail’s track record on tax hikes doesn’t look promising for the pair of new measures. In fact, the last tax increase approved by voters was a 1.4 percent lodging tax leveled on hotel guests – not locals.
Since 1973, when voters overwhelmingly put a sales tax in place, every other tax question has failed.
Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 602 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.