Vail Daily letter: ‘Yes’ to Eagle-Vail sales tax
October 22, 2016
Eagle-Vail voters will decide, through a mail-in ballot, if the Eagle-Vail Metro District should be authorized to impose a retail sales tax within the boundaries of the district of up to 2.9 percent, or a maximum of $1 million per year. Ballots are due to be returned to the district by Nov. 8. I encourage voters to approve this retail sales tax increase on the mail-in ballot.
The state and county retail sales tax currently assessed within Eagle-Vail is 4.4 percent. If approved, the total sales tax on retail sales will be no more than 7.3 percent. At the maximum possible rate, retail sales in Eagle-Vail will continue to have a lower sales tax rate than most areas of Eagle County. The elected board of the district has the discretion to impose an amount less than 2.9 percent. Voters should consider that people throughout Colorado and the nation make purchases in the district.
The new tax revenues could be transformational to Eagle-Vail. A fresh look is being given to the construction of a chairlift from Eagle-Vail to the Beaver Creek Ski Resort. A likely line of travel would run to the west of Stone Creek from the 18th green to the Cinch Catwalk above Allie's Cabin. Chairlift access is a highly sought after amenity in the community. One reason that the chairlift is getting new consideration is the possibility of the new sales tax revenues to pay for chairlift costs instead of real estate or other taxes. These new revenues, the possible chairlift and other initiatives could propel real estate values to a new level.
The mail-in ballot disclosures exclude mention of the chairlift due to uncertainty as to whether a chairlift would be approved or developed. Challenges exist to develop this chairlift. Several years of careful analysis and input from various stakeholders, including residents, the US Forest Service, the Colorado Department of Wildlife, and Vail Resorts, will be required.
The sales tax is restricted by law for use for certain expenditures which include transportation, parking, safety and roads. The district has been advised that the chairlift would fall under one of the permitted categories. The new sales tax revenues will also be available to address certain budget needs in Eagle-Vail. Other possible uses for these funds might include road safety improvements, certain business district improvements, maintenance or development of parking lots, and an Eagle-Vail skier shuttle.
If approved by voters, the board of the district should be held accountable for the use of these revenues. Some uses of these new sales tax revenues have limited merit and need careful scrutiny. It would be imprudent to assess the full 2.9 percent until such time as the chairlift is more certain to be constructed.
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I would encourage Eagle-Vail voters to approve the sales tax proposal. I also discourage the district board from using these funds as a blank check for poorly reasoned projects.
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