Vail’s tax hike sensible |

Vail’s tax hike sensible

Don Rogers

Avon homeowners’ property tax rate is 27 percent higher than Vail’s.

Eagle homeowners’ property tax rate is 17 percent higher than Vail’s.

Gypsum homeowners’ property tax rate is 18 percent higher than Vail’s.

There’s no reason for Vail property owners to show their empty pockets and fret aloud that their taxes are too high already, or that homeowners would be priced to more affordable digs in Eagle County. The property tax rates in Colorado are low, and Vail’s rests among the lowest.

But Vail’s homes are pricey, nearly as expensive as in enclaves like Beaver Creek and Arrowhead. How do their rates compare? Well, the difference is even more. In Beaver Creek’s case, the tax rate is 36 percent higher than Vail’s. Arrowhead’s property tax rate is 34 percent higher than Vail’s.

Even if Vail’s voters approve raising their property tax rate by 4 mills, which translates to $36 more for each $100,000 in a home’s value, they’ll still have a lower rate than any entity in the county other than unincorporated Edwards.

Of course this alone presents no compelling reason to raise Vail’s property tax rates, but neither does an argument that the town’s homeowners would be run into poverty quite hold up.

It may even offer a partial answer about why Vail’s infrastructure is looking a bit on the shabby side as sales tax revenue has flattened in comparison to the inflation rate over the past decade.

With private investment in redeveloping Lionshead and Vail Village running up to some $750 million, the timing is right for the town to address neglected infrastructure needs as well as public safety improvements – namely more firefighters to cover growing demand and an aging fire station downtown that has long outlived its useable life.

The move would be a step toward a better balance of revenue, raising the property tax revenue from 7 percent to 14 percent of the town’s budget.

If the voters reject the property tax increase, they can reasonably expect cuts in services they have grown to rely on.

Remember the din that the suggestion of cutting a couple of the lesser-used bus routes rose as part of the town trimming $1 million in expenditures for next year?

Well, that would be just the beginning, as the town stretches to cover those necessary infrastructure needs while the private sector does its part to upgrade Vail.

Opponents point out that the council has spent rather lavishly on the Donovan Pavilion, even in its more community friendly yet still nearly $3 million form. They also note that the lodging and sales tax increases advocated in the ballot measure for a conference center would cover the needs outlined in the property tax hike.

Also, the private sector is contributing to streetscape work and other infrastructure in the shopping villages in a way they wish businesses would for the conference center.

The hardest cases simply think the town should cut services accordingly and that’s just that. Sometimes you have to wonder how the town and resort grew in the first place.

The die long have been cast in regard to Donovan, and most of the improvements there come from real estate transfer tax revenue, which cannot be used for uses other than open space or recreation. Council members also point out that not so long ago, this was the top hot button in town politics, supplanted now by national recession and Sept. 11.

An irony will likely be that even the critics will acknowledge the benefits of the pavilion, just as they did with the roundabouts, Ford Park, amphitheater, Blue Ski Basin, ice arena. … Seems to be the Vail way: Raise a stink early and thank the heavens for those wise investments later. It’s a funny town.

This is a judgment call, but other than the rather obvious case for building the conference center, at least in our view, it’s past time for Vail to begin balancing the municipal tax structure for simple stability. The property owners ought to carry a fairer share of the burden for what they receive than they do now. To the community’s detriment, they have paid a very small share of the costs of running the town and keeping it up.

Still others suggest the council rushed into this proposal to meet ballot deadlines and there might be better ways to structure a property tax increase. Perhaps. Tomorrow’s computer is always better than today’s, too.

The town has a fairly extensive list of projects for those who want to know more specifics. We’re not going to detail them here. We believe they are genuine needs, and the right decision for voters is to approve them. For a small cost to homeowners who pay far less than other communities, the town can maintain basic amenities for a resort community and take care of longstanding needs it has had to let go.

If you think it through, it’s not really such a difficult decision.

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