Council decides how to spend $2 million in accommodation tax reserves
The city of Steamboat Springs expects to have about $2 million in its lodging tax reserves by the end of the year, and city staff have asked the city council how that money should be spent.
Council members were presented with five different options at their meeting on Tuesday, October 11.
The first option, recommended by staff, is to spend the money on unfunded capital improvement projects that fit the criteria of the lodging tax vote question passed in 1986.
The second option was to send out a “call for projects” to the community, which would allow residents, community groups and nonprofits to suggest ways to spend the money.
The third option was a grant program, which would be akin to a “call for projects,” but the funds would involve a grant application process.
The fourth option was to allocate funds to more than one of the first three options and the fifth option was to do nothing and decide where to spend the money later.
Winnie DelliQuadri, manager of special projects and intergovernmental services for the city, described the pros and cons of each option.
According to DelliQuadri, funding capital improvement projects would alleviate pressure from the city’s capital fund and general fund while allocating money to projects listed in the city’s master plans. The first option was described as the least demanding on the capacity and workload of municipal staff.
“We came to you with recommendations, and you could tell us what you wanted to fund,” DelliQuadri said.
The downside of the first option, according to city staff, is that capital projects often require ongoing maintenance.
“It helps us manage the backlog of unfunded projects in our (capital improvement projects),” DelliQuadri said. “That means we’re going to have future maintenance costs for these projects for the most part.”
According to DelliQuadri, the second option, calling for projects, would provide greater community engagement and could potentially fund non-city-owned projects and therefore not increase maintenance costs.
But a call for projects would require more staff time to complete the process of receiving, reviewing and approving community recommendations, according to DelliQuadri.
“It would take a lot of staff time, whether on behalf of the city or a partner,” DelliQuadri said. “And that wouldn’t solve any of our project backlogs.”
The third option, awarding grants, has similar advantages and disadvantages to the call for projects, including the added strain on staff. But grantmaking could potentially form partnerships with various agencies to award money to nonprofits.
“Old Town Hot Springs would really like this option,” DelliQuadri said. “Pickleball courts would also like this option.”
Saving lodging tax revenue for later would give the city financial flexibility down the road, DelliQuadri explained, but would not address any existing needs.
City Council unanimously supported the first option and some members listed some of the capital projects they would like to see funded.
Criteria for the Lodging Tax Ordinance of 1986 state that the 1% lodging tax can only be used for projects that “enhance the viability of Steamboat Springs as a premier resort.” and must “function to preserve, promote and enhance community identity.”
The city council was presented with five projects recommended by the Parks and Recreation Department, but could choose any capital project that met the 1986 criteria.
Council member Heather Sloop said she wanted to fund solar lights in Howelsen Hill.
“We’re not just asking people to go up the hill, but we’re also asking people to park there and walk across the bridge,” Sloop said.
Councilor Gail Garey wanted to consider adding additional land to Howelsen Hill, since the new casing operation was taking land away, and Councilor Dakotah McGinlay wanted to help fund Bear River Park.
City Council President Robin Crossan liked all of these suggestions and added that she would like to explore funding for the westward expansion of the Yampa River Core Trail.
A recent inspection of the Steamboat Tennis and Pickleball Center revealed that the membrane needs to be replaced and needs to be insulated. While $500,000 of the city’s 2023 lodging tax budget has already been allocated for the membrane, an additional $500,000 will be needed for insulation and HVAC upgrades. .
Sloop said funding for the membrane should be a high priority given that the city transferred ownership of the structure as part of a partnership.
“You don’t give someone an old, run-down building and go, ‘there you go. “said Sloop.
To reach Spencer Powell, call 970-871-4229 or email him at [email protected]