Winter Park voters to decide on 2% lodging tax increase at upcoming election

Town purchases 2 busses for The Lift

Charley Sutherland
Special for Sky-Hi News
A Lift bus sits outside the system's new transit center in Winter Park.
Town of Winter Park/Courtesy image

The Winter Park Town Council approved Resolution 2084 to authorize the purchase of two used 35-foot buses at the Sept. 5 regular meeting.

Most buses operated by The Lift, the public bus service, were purchased around 2016. They were purchased used and are beginning to deteriorate.

When asked about the frequency of route disruption caused by broken down buses, Charles McCarthy, Winter Park’s transit manager said “It’s not ultra-frequent.”

McCarthy thinks the addition of the two newly purchased busses will “vastly” improve The Lift.

“We have two buses that you don’t have to worry about breaking down and affecting the service,” McCarthy explained.

Following the 2022-23 winter season town staff conducted a review of The Lift’s fleet. During this review, certain vehicles were identified as having major issues.

“After a certain amount of time you’re better off fiscally just replacing the buses rather than continuing to take them off the road to replace parts,” McCarthy said.

The buses were purchased using a 5339(a) grant from the Federal Transit Administration. The two busses cost $586,419, and bus wraps cost $15,000. The grant covered 80% of the cost of the new buses. The town covered the remaining 20%.

Lodging Tax Special Election

The town council approved resolution 2071 to authorize a special election which allows voters to decide on an increased lodging tax at its July 18 regular meeting. Revenue from the lodging tax will enter the town’s affordable housing fund. The tax is currently 1%.

On Sept. 6 the council approved resolution 2082, which finalizes the language of the special election ballot question. The council debated whether the measure, which will appear Nov. 7 special election ballot, should increase the tax by 2% or 3%.

Town clerk, Danielle Jardee, explained a 2% lodging tax increase would add $1,300,000 annually to the town’s affordable housing fund. A 3% lodging tax increase would add $1,950,000 annually to the fund.

Town councilman, Jeremy Henn, explained that while “It would be great to have the additional revenue,” he thinks the council should go with the 2% increase because that’s what the short-term rental advisory committee, which was formed to study affordable housing issues in Winter Park, recommended.”

The council decided on a 2% increase and approved the resolution, unanimously.

Mayor Nick Kutrumbos expressed confidence that voters would approve the 2% lodging tax increase.

“We have a good track record passing ballot measures,” Kutrumbos said.

Winter Park and Fraser Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Catherine Ross expressed concern that residents would confuse the increased lodging tax question at on the ballot in November with the proposed per bedroom fee on short-term rentals, which the town has not finalized.

Other business

  • Short-term rentals in Winter Park must register with the town by Sept. 30, 2023. All short-term rental properties are required to be registered with the town prior to listing on vacation rental sites.
  • The council tabled Resolution 2080, Sojourn at Idlewild’s development improvement agreement to the council’s Sept. 19 regular meeting. 
More Like This, Tap A Topic

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

The Sky-Hi News strives to deliver powerful stories that spark emotion and focus on the place we live.

Over the past year, contributions from readers like you helped to fund some of our most important reporting, including coverage of the East Troublesome Fire.

If you value local journalism, consider making a contribution to our newsroom in support of the work we do.