Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Breckenridge voters to decide on lift-ticket tax for parking, transit

#Breckenridge, Colorado.

Summit Daily News Link

Breckenridge voters might be staring at the lift-ticket tax question on their ballots with glazed eyes or furrowed brows.
At 515 words, the question is one of the more complicated issues local residents will decide on this year.
Plus, the ballot initiative might be especially confusing to folks not caught up on the turning-point compromise made by the town of Breckenridge and Breckenridge Ski Resort in August.
Earlier this year, the town and ski area parent company Vail Resorts both agreed they needed to work together to improve local parking and transit. The town created a task force to discuss studies, polls and solutions including an F-Lot parking garage, roundabouts on Park Avenue, more employee parking and increased bus services.
However, after the town pushed for a sales tax on chairlift tickets modeled after a similar tax in Vail, the two sides fought a tense public battle for a month or so this summer over funding.
Local residents, property owners and skiers grew concerned about the hostility between the town’s two largest players.
At the last minute, the town and the resort company drafted a compromise agreement that has been applauded by most residents.
The lift-ticket tax agreement won’t take effect, though, without voter approval.
The agreement has multiple parts. The town would require the company to collect a 4.5 percent sales tax on all single-day and multi-day Breckenridge Ski Resort lift tickets, regardless of how or where they are bought.
The tax, which would start in July 2016, would exclude season passes, multi-resort lift tickets and summer activities. Vail Resorts, the world’s largest resort company, agreed not to sue the town if the tax passes.
The tax would be tied to a new fund dedicated to transit and parking improvements, and the ski area agreed to continue to provide transit services at, or above, its current level.
The most important part of the agreement to many was the company’s $3.5 million annual guarantee, which would increase each year for inflation by 1 percent to 4 percent, based on the Denver-Boulder Consumer Price Index.
The deal specifies that if taxes amount to more than the guarantee, Vail Resorts could save the excess to cover any deficits in the next two years. For example, if tax receipts total $3 million in 2017, the company would be obligated to pay the town the $500,000 shortfall. If the receipts totaled $4 million, the resort company could save the extra $500,000 to cover deficits in 2018 and 2019, but not 2020.
The agreement would end if a future town council expands the lift-ticket tax to include more ski area activities or admissions.
In that case, Vail Resorts would no longer have to guarantee the town the adjusted $3.5 million. However, the 4.5 percent lift-ticket sales tax would remain.
Supporters say the tax accomplishes the goal of creating long-term funding for parking and transit improvements, improves the Breckenridge experience for residents and guests, continues the town and resort company’s longstanding partnership and does not affect season pass holders.
Breckenridge Ski Resort COO John Buhler recently called the tax agreement a home run for the community. Other longtime residents have called the agreement a strong deal and the tax long overdue, as the ski area has never paid a tax on lift tickets.
Though no comments in opposition were filed with the Summit County Clerk and Recorder’s Office by the deadline, a couple of people have expressed concerns about the tax to the Summit Daily, arguing that the town should reprioritize its current budget, so visiting skiers don’t have to fund the town’s parking and transit improvements.
According to town manager Tim Gagen, the town’s proposed parking and transit improvements are expected to cost between $4 million and $5.5 million annually, which the town would not be able to afford without new long-term funding, in addition to the $3 million a year already spent on parking and transit.
Gagen and town council members have said the town will continue to consider public input on parking and transit changes, but the town needs voters to pass the tax to move forward on those improvements.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.