Vail conference center faces crucial vote
September 2, 2005
VAIL – A proposed conference center in Vail has a test to pass tonight before going to voters Nov. 8.The Vail Town Council is expected to vote tonight on just what voters will be asked for in the fall election. A new election, and more tax money, is needed because money raised from a 2002 tax increase isn’t enough to build and operate a conference center.If the council approves the ballot language tonight, voters will be asked to approve a maximum lodging tax increase of 1.5 percent. About half of that will be used to build and operate the center. The rest of the tax increase won’t be collected unless cash on hand to run the center ever drops below $5 million. Some, or all, of the remaining tax would then be collected to cover operating costs.Some lodge owners and managers had asked the town to split the tax increase between lodging and sales taxes, the same mix voters approved in 2002.The decision to propose only a lodging tax is “moderately disappointing,” said Rob LeVine, general manager of the Antlers Lodge in Lionshead.”But we were also convinced that the political reality is that a split would make it too tough to pass the ballot issue,” LeVine said.If the minimum tax is collected, Vail’s lodging tax would go up to about 12.5 percent, LeVine said.
“That puts us in the upper end, but not at the top, of what other similar resorts collect,” LeVine said. “And there are a slew of big cities collecting 13 or 14 percent.”If the maximum tax is collected, Vail’s lodging tax would jump past 13 percent. But LeVine, long a supporter of the conference center plan, said he doesn’t expect that will happen.”We think that operating cost is going to be less than a lot of people think,” he said.If the council passes the ballot language tonight, opponents and supporters will launch their campaigns. LeVine said the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau will spearhead the campaign for the center.On the other side is a group of Vail residents who earlier this year launched, then shelved, a petition drive to force another vote on the center.”We’re going to wait to see what the ballot language says,” said Doctor Tom Steinberg, a longtime resident. “But I suspect we’ll be out there in some way.”===============By the numbersMaximum lodging tax increase: 1.5 percent
Minimum increase: About .7 percentVail’s lodging tax if maximum tax is imposed: 13.3 percent”Guaranteed” price of center: $64.8 millionElection day: Nov. 8
The triggerVail voters will be asked to approve a maximum 1.5 percent increase in the town’s lodging tax. That tax will be split, though. About .7 percent of the tax will be collected to build and run the center. If the center ever has less than $5 million in the bank to cover operating expenses, some, or all, of the rest of the tax increase can go into effect.====================Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado