Too many competing interests in ’08
Gunnison County will ask voters to re-up a tax that funds the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association in November 2009. Citing the likelihood of several competing ballot issues this fall, the Gunnison Board of County Commissioners, convening in their role as the Local Marketing District (LMD) board, moved to ask voters two years from now for the reauthorization of the LMD tax.
The tax is used to market the Gunnison region to prospective tourists through the Tourism Association. The Tourism Association is funded through two taxes—one is the 4 percent countywide lodging fee and the second is a tax on admissions fees collected by Mt. Crested Butte, on lift ticket sales.
Combined, the taxes raised $1,075,000 for 2007, of which $250,000 came from Mt. Crested Butte’s admission fee contribution. Without reauthorization from the voters, the tax is due to sunset in 2011.
According to Tourism Association executive director Jane Chaney, not only are Gunnison County voters likely to be voting on a tax increase for the school district and a reauthorization of the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority in 2008, but Colorado Governor Ritter may be asking for a statewide lodging tax of 3 percent or 4 percent and a 15 cent gas tax to fund state transportation.
“Maybe it’s not a great idea to go to the ballot in ‘08,” she said, citing the competing initiatives.
But county commissioner Paula Swenson argued that it would be better to ask for the reauthorization of the RTA and LMD reauthorization together. “The majority of the voters don’t separate them out,” she said. “And if we run the RTA one year and turn around and run the LMD the next year, I can see people saying ‘How many times am I going to have to pay for these taxes?’”
The Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) is considered to be an important element to local tourism marketing efforts since it enables reliable ground and air transportation. In the past it has been closely linked with the LMD. However, Chaney said, mixing the two entities “muddies the water.” She suggested the efforts to reauthorize their respective funding should be separated.
“As we put together a local awareness campaign for the RTA in 2008, that can be our focus,” she said. “And in 2009 when we put together the campaign for the LMD, that can be our focus.”
County Commission chair Hap Channell said both RTA and LMD are critical to the fortunes of the county and he agreed to separate the reauthorization dates. “They’ve proven themselves… and both (the LMD and RTA) have been highly successful,” he said.
Because the entities have been so successful, Channell said he thought the reauthorization would not include a sunset clause this time around.
In the end Swenson joined Channell in agreeing to run the reauthorization of the LMD tax in 2009. Commissioner Jim Starr was absent.