Vail Recreation District asking voters this fall for a property tax increase that would generate $1.1M in its first year | VailDaily.com

Vail Recreation District asking voters this fall for a property tax increase that would generate $1.1M in its first year

Shelley Martel plays a round of golf on Thursday, Oct. 12, at the Vail Golf Club, which is operated by the Vail Recreation District. THe district depends on its relatively small mill levy, as well as user fees, to cover its operating expenses and capital improvements.

VAIL — When the Vail Recreation District was created in the 1990s, it managed the town's golf course, Dobson Ice Arena, the town's athletic fields and not much else. Today, those responsibilities have grown, as have the district's financial needs.

That's why the district this fall is asking voters for a property tax increase.

That increase isn't a big one — one mill, which equates to another $36 per year on a home valued at $500,000.

That increase will raise an estimated $1.09 million in its first year, according to the district's ballot proposal.

The district now depends on its relatively small mill levy, as well as user fees, to cover its operating expenses and capital improvements. The district manages and operates town-owned facilities but is a separate entity from the town, so it collects no sales taxes.

planning for future needs

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Tom Saalfeld, chairman of the Vail Recreation District Board of Directors, said current revenues are sufficient to cover operating expenses.

"Our operating budget has been in the black for many years now," Saalfeld said.

The problem comes when planning for maintenance and future needs.

Saalfeld said the district was able to contribute $1 million to the construction of the new clubhouse at the golf course but had to save for years to make that contribution to the town-funded project.

That means there's little money available for looming projects on facilities, some of which are now nearing 40 years old.

There are bridges to replace at the golf course, each of which carries an estimated price of $1 million. In addition, the cooling system at the ice arena needs to be replaced, for both age and environmental reasons.

Those are all expensive projects, but Saalfeld said the revenue from the proposed tax increase will be sufficient over several years to tackle those projects — some of which will be done in conjunction with the town.

Alternative to tax increase

Board member Kim Newbury-Rediker said the alternative to the property tax increase is increasing user fees. Those increases could be as high as 30 percent, in some cases. For instance, the price of a silver pass at the Vail Golf Club could rise from $1,000 per season to $1,350. Fees for softball could rise as much as $200 per team. That's something Newbury-Rediker said she doesn't want to see.

When Newbury-Rediker was a single mom and her kids were in school, she depended on the district's after-school programs. Without an infusion of property tax revenue, fees for those programs might have to increase by as much as $20 per day, per kid.

"Those increases would have broken me," she said.

Besides the burden on families and Vail's main-line employees — many of whom buy golf passes or play softball — Newbury-Rediker said the increases could actually drive down participation, depressing revenues.

Saalfeld said the district's programs reach beyond town and valley residents.

'Not being burdensome'

"Since the district was created, we've added so many programs to serve the public and our guests," Saalfeld said. Those programs range from the Imagination Station for kids to mountain bike and running races. Saalfeld said a number of guests use those programs, too.

"People have been telling me 'I don't use those (programs),'" Saalfeld said. "We're also creating avenues of recreation for guests who come to Vail, and that adds to the sales tax base."

That's great for the town but doesn't help the district, he added.

Newbury-Rediker has been on the district board for three years and said the board has talked about its revenue needs throughout that time.

"We've worked to make sure we're doing the right thing," she said. "We want to make sure we're being fair to constituents and not being burdensome."

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com or @scottnmiller.

How to cast a ballot

• The Vail Recreation District covers the Gore Creek Valley from East Vail to Intermountain.

• The district is conducting a mail-ballot election, with ballots due no later than Tuesday, Nov. 7.

• Ballots will be mailed the week of Monday, Oct. 16. This ballot is separate from the Eagle County voters’ ballot.

• To learn more, visit http://www.vailrec.com.

Source: Vail Recreation District