Guest opinion: Lodging and attractions tax? Contact city council now
Glenwood Springs City Council will be meeting Thursday to discuss and, possibly, decide on putting a lodging tax increase and/or an attractions tax on the November ballot. I encourage you to get as much information as you can and to let council know your feelings about this.
I support adding this to the ballot this year and letting Glenwood residents decide what to do.
One of the discussions for council will be how and how much of a new tax can/should be used for a housing fund — workforce/affordable/low income — for Glenwood. I think this is critical to our housing shortage.
There is little doubt (supported by a recent poll; anecdotal information; council strategic vision) that more affordable housing and housing options for Glenwood is a high priority — perhaps one of the highest. We need places for workers to live — service workers, teachers, nurses, city employees, seniors, kids who grew up here …
We have seen many new apartments come on line — most of which are market rate and relatively expensive and rental only. We have not had many units for owner-occupied or single family homes or townhomes or condominiums.
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We have made some headway — a low income housing project at the Meadows, a school district project in south Glenwood, a few deed-restricted rental units under the city’s new inclusionary housing plan and some private employer housing apartments. But not enough.
Some have argued that we should have no more growth. I take the approach that affordable housing is not necessarily about growth but rather about opportunity — opportunity for renters to become homeowners, opportunity for lower-paid workers to move into better housing near their jobs, opportunity for seniors to stay here in Glenwood, opportunities for young families who grew up here to stay here.
I have been working with/for the city for several years on Planning and Zoning and our Housing Commission. The need for more housing is one of the most, if not the most, important, driving priorities. I have also come to realize that Glenwood seems far behind other communities in terms of affordable housing projects and partnerships.
Also, we are behind in obtaining grants and other forms of assistance. One of the reasons, it seems to me, is that we have no dedicated source of funds for housing. One of the keys to successful projects seems to be a dedicated city source of housing funds to put into projects or partnerships. Basalt, Carbondale, New Castle, Rifle and others seem to be ahead of us. Time is not on our side. Waiting only makes the shortage and problem worse.
For these reasons, I encourage council to put a ballot question on now, and I support a dedicated fund (tax revenue) for affordable/workforce/low income housing that can be used in partnership with others or for subsidies or actual construction.
Ten years ago would have been better. Later is too late.
My own research is similar to that of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (“Breaking down Glenwood Springs lodging tax,” Monday, Aug. 30, edition). Our overall tax rate is comparable to other communities.
Many of them have lodging taxes that are higher than our 2.5%. Breckenridge, Mt. Crested Butte, Basalt, Eagle, Grand Junction, Denver and Fruita seem to be among those that are currently higher than ours. Others with lower rates but much higher lodging revenue than Glenwood include Aspen and Winter Park. There seems to be little if any information/argument that a somewhat higher lodging tax will drive visitors elsewhere and lower occupancy.
Currently there is no tax revenue from the sale of attractions tickets such as hot springs, vapor caves, tram/caverns and perhaps rafting and bike rentals. Again, a tax is not likely to drive business down. In recent years ski areas have added a lift ticket tax — Breckenridge, Vail and Crested Butte.
No one loves taxes, but in Glenwood’s case most of these taxes would be paid by our visitors. Our visitors are both our bread and butter as well as some of our bane. They help us survive and thrive and provide much of our city revenue. At the same time they put strains on our infrastructure, traffic and need for service employees. It makes sense to me to have them reasonably help to provide housing for the people that help support them and our businesses and town.
So I support a decision by council to ask us, the residents of Glenwood Springs, if we want to add user taxes to support a housing fund and, perhaps, additional resort services such as shuttles or maintenance. If council proceeds, the actual tax rates and dedicated uses will be hashed out at the meeting this Thursday evening. Whether you agree with me or not, it is important that you let the council know your feelings as soon as possible.
This is important — regardless of the final outcome — and a chance for you to be involved. Email council now.
Thank you for listening and getting involved.
Sumner Schachter is a longtime Glenwood Springs resident and current member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.
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