Listening to the locals
By Mark Reaman
After hearing from several business owners at the April 1 meeting, the Crested Butte Town Council decided to keep the vendor fee refund that goes to local businesses that file sales tax forms on time.
The idea of repealing the vendor fee refund was floated by town finance director Rob Zillioux, who saw an opportunity to save the town about $60,000 per year by not allowing local businesses to keep the 1.5 percent of the sales tax they collect on behalf of the town. The regulation was originally designed to help businesses defray the cost of collecting the tax but Zillioux pointed out that most collections are easily accomplished now through software programs.
“More than anything, this is an effort to help the town balance the annual budget,” Zillioux told the council. “This is one way going forward. Last year the town refunded $61,500.”
Zillioux pointed out in a memo to the council that while that was not a huge amount of money, it was enough to possibly boost community grants, pay the salary of a new marshal or assist in the cost of fire repression sprinkler systems for four or five new affordable housing units.
But several business owners and the local chamber of commerce spoke against the idea.
“Business here is hard enough and there are a million reasons why,” said Sean Hartigan of The Last Steep. “We are still doing the work of collecting this tax. We all deal with credit card fees as part of it. There is no reason to take away this 1.5 percent from us. I don’t believe it is fair or right.”
Drew Henry of the Dogwood Cocktail Cabin was on the same page. “I agree it is harder to do business right now. The rents are going up, wages have to be higher to keep employees. This little bit helps.”
“That is right. The 1.5 percent refund helps a bit for the bottom line as everything else on the expense side keeps going up,” added Richard Machemehl of Nicky’s Donuts.
Crested Butte-Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce president Joshua Futterman said the action would hurt small business in town. “It is hard for our chamber members,” he told the council. “Due to rising overhead costs and things like staffing challenges, it seems like this would add insult to injury. We strongly ask that you not repeal this.”
The council heard and supported the comments from the businesses. “I think this is taking a whack at the mom-and-pop businesses in town,” said councilmember Laura Mitchell. “It is a bad idea. Many of them are just trying to survive.”
“I agree,” said councilmember Candice Bradley. “And the refund goes to those who pay on time. That’s an incentive. It is important to cultivate relationships with small businesses.”
“The refund is a great incentive for businesses to pay on time and that helps the town,” agreed councilman Paul Merck.
“Even it is just a little refund, if we repeal this it would give me the feeling as a small business that the town is not on our side,” added councilman Jackson Petito.
Mayor Jim Schmidt asked the council if anyone wanted to move to repeal the vendor fee refund and no one did, so the idea died for lack of council support.