PI Editorial: Glenwood Springs council shouldn’t rush tax proposals
Talk about crunch time.
In nine days, Glenwood Springs City Council will go from its first discussion of two important tax proposals to voting whether or not to put one or both to the voters come November.
The goal for the proposed taxes is without a doubt both good and necessary: further development of affordable housing within Glenwood Springs. Despite that, we’re not alone in thinking it feels like too little information, too little discussion and too little time to really give the issues their due.
At the Aug. 25 City Council work session, City Attorney Karl Hanlon explained an attractions tax — if approved by voters — could be a tax collected on ticketed events and attractions such as the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, Glenwood Hot Springs Resort, Iron Mountain Hot Springs or “any place or event open to the public,” which charges for admission.
Of the approximately 11% in tax applied to overnight stays at Glenwood’s hotels, the city receives only about 2.5%. In total, 92.5% of the city’s lodging tax is used for the Tourism Promotion Budget. The city’s Financial Advisory Board uses the remainder to provide grants for nonprofit organizations, promote overnight stays and attract events.
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The exact amount for both proposed taxes is not yet known and won’t be determined until the Sept. 2 council meeting. That means residents and business owners will have to process and determine positions in real-time if they want to provide public comment to council on the proposals before it goes to a vote.
Whether you think you’ll support or oppose the measures, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to make the best argument either way in such a short amount of time.
Now, the short timeline is not necessarily by choice — the Garfield County Clerk must receive the tax questions by Sept. 3 in order to get them on the November ballot.
But why not, as some City Council members suggested, wait until 2022?
Some might say the need for affordable housing is urgent — we’re inclined to agree. Practically speaking, however, what is more likely to have a positive impact more quickly? Two new taxes to help fund and seek out public-private partnerships, or making it easier for housing developers to put shovels in the ground? Given the lengthy timelines, plan quibbles and high levels of uncertainty developers seem to face in Glenwood Springs right now, we’re skeptical new taxes are the best way to address our housing needs.
That’s not to say we’re saying no to the idea forever. We really just want to see the matter get more time for public input and a stronger push by its advocates to partner with our businesses, which will see their customers impacted.
This is definitely possible. Durango earlier this year passed a lodgers’ tax increase for the first time in 40 years — but only after considerable work getting business support over 18 months leading up to the vote, the Durango Herald reports. Those partnerships also required give and take, but would the tax have passed if those compromises didn’t happen? We don’t have an ear on the ground in Durango, but our hunch is no.
One new tax is a heavy lift, let alone two at the same time. But it’s easier to do the lifting when you have willing partners. We’d encourage council members to take the time necessary to develop those partners rather than try to lift these proposals on their own.
The Post Independent editorial board members are Publisher Bryce Jacobson, Editor Peter Baumann, Managing Editor/Senior Reporter John Stroud, and community representatives Annie Bell and Amy Connerton.
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