Our View: Yes to Vail sales tax to fund housing | VailDaily.com

Our View: Yes to Vail sales tax to fund housing

Vail has been short of workforce housing since the first gondola clattered uphill in 1962. But today’s housing crunch may be as bad, or worse, than it’s ever been.

While Vail in the last few years has put millions from its existing housing funds and ample reserves into housing initiatives, that isn’t a sustainable course of action. Today’s housing crunch may finally have convinced town voters it’s time to create a stable housing fund.

Unlike Avon, which is asking voters to tax short-term rentals — a tax someone else pays — Vail is asking voters to increase the town’s sales tax rate for the first time since 1974. The proposed increase — .5% — won’t apply to groceries, so locals will bear little of the burden. Most people won’t notice either, since .5% adds $5 to a $1,000 purchase. That’s a big day at the hardware store or ski shop.

If passed, the sales tax revenue — estimated at $4.3 million in its first year — will be dedicated to housing projects and initiatives.

That revenue can be used for town-only initiatives, and the proposal’s 30-year sunset provision is roughly in line with the standard repayment time for revenue bonds.

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But local governments are best served when private-sector partners get involved, so funds can also be used for those projects.

The ballot question — 2A on your ballot — specifies that revenues from the new tax go to housing, but the money can be used both inside and outside of Vail.

Given the $70 million estimated cost of redeveloping the west side of the Timber Ridge property, money from the proposed sales tax will almost certainly need to be augmented with other money. Still, this new revenue stream is a good start.

Opponents of the proposal have argued that Vail’s money won’t be spent entirely on housing for people who work in town, or will be available to those who don’t work in town.

The town has set up a tiered system for the 23 units at Edwards’ 6 West apartments for which the town purchased deed restrictions. Those restrictions mean units go first to town employees, then people who work in Vail, then people who work in Eagle County for an annual average of 30 hours per week.

In a valley that relies on a commuting workforce, it will be difficult to ensure that funds from the sales tax will benefit only those who work in Vail. We believe the town will make a sincere effort to ensure that housing fund money will first benefit Vail’s workforce. We also believe that this is the time to boost the town’s housing funds, and we encourage a “yes” vote on the question.

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