Breckenridge, ski area push for transit agreement
December 29, 2011
Four months ahead of the April municipal elections, Breckenridge Town Council members and ski resort executives are still working on a transit agreement that might keep a lift ticket tax question off the ballot.
After several weeks of closed-door meetings, council members involved in the talks with Vail Resorts and Breckenridge Ski Resort (BSR) executives wouldn’t say whether the two entities were nearing an agreement.
Breckenridge Mayor John Warner did say that nothing is on the table yet.
If they have not reached an agreement with the resort by the deadline to add to the April ballot, councilmembers said they would move forward with the tax question.
“I think we have the support from the council to put it on the ballot and then let the voters decide,” Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron said. “That’s if the ski area and the town can’t come to terms.”
The revenue from a lift ticket tax could help fund a coordinated ski area/town bus system in Breckenridge, town officials have said.
But the lift ticket tax – also called an amusement or admissions tax – question seems to be getting mixed reviews from the public, based on the results of an informal Summit Daily poll.
The majority, 56 percent, of the more than 370 respondents to the online survey as of Sunday said they wouldn’t vote for a lift ticket tax at all, and only 6 percent said they would support the tax because the town needed the money to improve transit.
Almost 35 percent of respondents said they would vote yes on a lift ticket tax because they thought Vail Resorts should have a tax on its sales as other businesses do.
Close to 15 percent of those who participated in the poll said they didn’t think the town needed the lift ticket tax revenue and 40 percent held that it’s not the right time to be imposing new taxes on Breck’s visitors.
Vail Resorts collects a sales tax on food, merchandise and rentals, but no tax is currently imposed on lift or admission ticket sales in Breckenridge.
The Town of Vail does levy a 4 percent lift ticket tax, which Mayor Andy Daly called “a major revenue source for the town.”
Breckenridge Ski Resort executives have expressed strong opposition to the tax proposal and have made it clear if the question is put on the ballot and approved, the cost will be passed on to their customers.
“Ultimately an amusement tax is not a tax on Breckenridge Ski Resort, but a tax that would be borne by guests and locals alike who ski and ride at Breckenridge,” Vail Resorts spokeswoman Kristin Williams said. “There is a strong anti-tax sentiment across our state and across the country – with intense scrutiny being put on even the hint of a new tax.”
Town officials said many people’s support for the tax is “vindictive” against Vail Resorts and said it was possible a citizens’ group would put the tax question on the ballot even if the town and the resort reached a transit agreement.
If approved by voters, the tax could be applied to summer fun park revenue, bar and restaurant cover charges, theater tickets, sleigh ride revenue and event ticket sales as well as lift ticket sales.
A 4.5 percent tax would bring in an estimated $2.9 million annually from lift ticket sales alone. No decisions on the size or scope of the tax have been made.
The Vail Daily contributed to the reporting of this story.