Editorial: Shepherds, no sheep

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Craig City Council’s recent decision to split a water line cost with a private business development represents forward thinking and an economic-development friendly approach. Surprisingly, this progressive thinking isn’t embraced by another key governing body.

The Craig City Council tackled two items at its July 27 meeting, both of which hint at the council’s desire to be proactive when it comes to much-needed economic development in the city.

The council voted, 5-1, to approve the first reading of a 6.9-percent lodging tax that will likely be placed before voters in November’s general election. Council member Ray Beck was the lone vote of opposition, citing that he would rather support a 5.9-percent measure.

There was nothing unusual about the lodging tax action, given the proposal originated out of the council and most members have expressed support for the proposal since its’ inception.

However, coupled with an approved action item somewhat less publicized, it could be viewed that the city council has now taken a more aggressive and forward-thinking approach to economic development.

At the same meeting, council members unanimously approved splitting the cost of a water line loop with MJK Sales & Feed at its new development site on First Street. The city’s cost will not exceed $25,832.50.

The Editorial Board supports the council’s decision to spend this small fraction of city funds to help a long-time local business expand into a new project. The return to the city in sales tax revenue from this new development should cover its miniscule investment several times over.

Partnered with the lodging tax proposal, the approved MJK water line expenditure indicates the council recognizes that these are uncertain economic times, and that a little investment now is a potential payday waiting to happen later.

In that regard, the council are acting as shepherds.

This stance isn’t one adopted by the Moffat County Commission, which has foolishly stated through words or actions that its’ philosophy is to do as little as possible to improve area economic development.

This was reinforced Tuesday at the Craig Daily Press/KRAI candidate forum when two sitting commissioners running for re-election said economic development is best left to the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership and the Moffat County Tourism Association.

No mention of investing in business infrastructure, and no talk of generating revenue through creative proposals along the lines of the lodging tax.

Their message boiled down to, quite simply, doing what’s always been done.

Certainly the candidacies of these two commissioners cannot be judged solely on their views regarding economic development, however, on this topic at least, they seem to be the sheep that have strayed far from the city’s shepherd.

Hopefully one day, whether it’s under the current commissioner body or the next, the county can be called successfully back to the flock.

Comments

Nadja Rider 4 years, 4 months ago

The lodging tax rate proposed by the City Council is insane! As I posted in another thread, the rate here is already 9.05%, of which 1.9% is a lodging tax. Add another 6.9% and you'll have the highest rates in the state of Colorado. Aspen charges a total of 10% tax, of which 1% is specifically a lodging tax.

I reviewed previous articles and its obvious that most folks don't know what the curent tax rates are, or what the new one would be if this passes. The new rate would be a whopping 16.04%!! Steamboat's total tax is 11.4%.

For the record, I do not work in the lodging industry, nor do I have any association with that industry in any way. I'm simply shocked and appalled that our city council believes they can shove this through under the guise of not affecting locals. The 1.9% tax the county collects is more than sufficient and in line with what other communities charge.

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MoCo4life 4 years, 4 months ago

Another example of how the Craig Daily Press management uses the newspaper to further their own agendas. Of course the city gets a pat on the back for proposing a lodging tax, the newspaper helped write a "study" to sell the idea before it ever went to council. The newspaper gets quite a few of those lodging-tax based advertising dollars. Plus, the city council never used the term "economic development" or "tax revenue" when discussing sharing the cost of MJK's water line. They invested to have a redundant loop which could be used if the main ever failed and as a quality control mechanism. The newspaper higher ups are stretching awfully far here in their attempt to give the county a quick pre-election slap.

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Melody Villard 4 years, 4 months ago

True the current tax rate on top of the room charge is 9.05% (2.25% is City, 2.9% is State, 2.0% is County and 1.9% is lodging tax specifically for tourism promotion). However, the proposed rate would be 14.05% total.

The proposed new tax would be imposed only within the city limits. County establishments would continue to have a tax rate for lodging of 1.9%. The new lodging tax within the city limits would prohibit the collection of the county tax within the city limits. Lodging establishments within city limits would then have a total tax of 14.05% (2.25% is City, 2.9% is State, 2.0% is County and 6.9% would be lodging tax [split as follows "3.0 per cent lodging tax dedicated to capital improvements, .3% community beautification, and .6% economic development and shall report directly to the City Council. 3.0 per cent tax, earmarked for tourism marketing, and also for the hiring and oversight of a Director for that committee."] So the current combined sales tax rate within the city of 7.15% would see an additional 6.9% increase...the county taxes would remain the same.)

Now that the MCTA has a marketing plan in place, increased revenue to carry out that plan would be necessary. Although the final plans for how the tourism portion of the fund would be administered have not been made, Councilman Carwile has suggested the possibility of an inter-agency transfer to allow the MCTA to continue to handle the county's tourism promotion. The current funding to the MCTA would be severely cut if this tax passes, making it necessary to find a way to have funds other than what they would be able to collect from 1.9% on county establishments to implement more than just the initial phases of the plan, which will result in spending down a large portion MCTA budget reserves. The MCTA has somewhere in the neighborhood of just over $300,000.00 to work with to implement the initial phases of the marketing plan as well as operate for the coming year. If we want to continue to increase tourism those plans will need follow through as well as implementation. I would like to see the tourism promotion continue in Moffat County. I would love to see us "Shop Craig First" as often as possible as well. I think having the City involved as oversight would help with that. Spending up to $5,000 in Routt County for team building is an example of where our dollars could be promoting our own local businesses in this economy. While the County would be exempt from paying the tax on the rooms whether they are here or in Routt County, the dollars spent on the retreat could be just what a Moffat County business needs this year to stay a float. We need to think more creatively about how to accomplish the goals we have for Moffat County. We should be focusing on promoting what we have and not building something that we are not!

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Melody Villard 4 years, 4 months ago

Having the City Council to help with oversight and accountability are certainly going to be benefits in having more resources for tourism promotion, beautification and increased economic development activities. Ultimately though, it is your voice that needs to be heard.

If you feel that there needs to be more discussion on this matter... that is where the community needs to step up and be heard. If you think that this tax increase is going to be too high, you need to voice that concern. If you are on board with it, your voice needs to be heard as well. You elected a Council to be your collective voice. They can only do their job with what they are presented. Council meetings are in the evening, making it possible to feed a family and still get there for a meeting...but the council members are also willing to hear from you during the day, in person, by phone or by email.

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Nadja Rider 4 years, 4 months ago

Thanks for the clarification Melody, however I believe a total tax of 14.05% is still too high. I don't think most people realize exactly how high the tax already is and how much worse it's going to be if this passes. I found out a couple weeks ago when I needed to book local lodging for guests.

Like I said, I'm ok with 1.9% and feel that is in line with what is being charged in other communities.

I travel frequently and I do avoid communities that charge ridiculously high tax rates. This community is trying to attract visitors, not discourage them from staying here. In all my travels I have not stayed anywhere that charges over 10-12% total tax, and often its much less.

In my opinion it would have been wiser for the city to try and work with the MCTA rather than starting a new entity with basically the same goals.

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Melody Villard 4 years, 4 months ago

With a very ambitious marketing plan in mind, and the local lodging representatives insisting that 6.9% is too high as well...what would your recommendation be to the council? The committee was comfortable with this amount and thoughts were that "you only get one shot at this"...the lodging community has also all rallied together to say that they support the idea, but not at that percentage. This is where your thoughts need to be shared with the council. This was passed on the first reading 5-1. It would be great to see more participation during the council meetings, rather than just grumblings on the street!

I do agree that this will not only affect visitors to our area, but some of our own residents and businesses, as you have experienced. If there is opportunity to put this type of tax in place (even if it is at a lower rate) it can have a positive impact not only on our tourism, but ideally on our overall tax base as well. If we can get them to come, we can get them to stay, if we can get them to stay, we can get them to eat, shop, buy fuel etc! At the right price this really can be a very positive move for our city and county.

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justthefacts 4 years, 4 months ago

Fact: The MTCA has $300,000 dollars to spend, because it has not promoted tourism for two years.( What is their job anyway?)

Fact: The MCTA has meetings, meetings, and even more meetings to accomplish NOTHING!!!!!

FACT: The MCTA wins the "Around the Block Award", for the second year running. This award is given to the organization that accomplishes the least with the most.

Going round and round in circles is one of the criteria that leads to winning this award.

Fact: The Moffat County Commissioners come in a close second.

Just The Facts for the betterment of circles.

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Nadja Rider 4 years, 4 months ago

Melody, the problem is that I was not aware of what the total tax would be. I went through previous articles to see if I had missed it. I didn't miss it - it was simply not reported as to what the total tax would be. I kept reading about 6.9% and many people were under the impression that is what the total tax would be.

I'm not against a modest tax. 1.9% generates a sizeable amount of revenue for marketing purposes. Craig is not a Steamboat or Aspen and does not offer the recreational infrastructure to warrant a high lodging tax rate.

As far as fighting this tax, I believe the local lodging industry should be involved and a lot more vocal. I'm complaining primarily because I'm against ridiculous increases in ANY tax. With the economy in the dumper, everbody is having to suck it up and make do with what they have. The private individual has to do that, so should our politicians, whether it be on a local or national level. This idea of imposing new taxes every time the politicians want something is getting out of hand in this country.

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Reaver 4 years, 4 months ago

Let's think about this with elementary math. The lodging tax moving from 1.9% to 6.9% increases the tax at a maximum of 5.0%.

Easy math tells us that this adds a total of $5 to the end of a one night hotel stay that costs $100. I have a friend that works at the Hampton, and says their cost for a hotel night is almost always $100, disregarding haggling/AAA/nicer hotel room/etc.

If you are booking a room and see a difference of $109 vs. $114, is that really going to 'make you see the light' and book a room in Hayden? Of course not, that is ignorant. If the room is too expensive, you find a cheaper hotel to stay at in the same town regardless.

I stayed in Denver recently, and I believe the total tax paid there was around 19%. It sure didn't stop me from staying in Denver vs. Fort Collins or some garbage town that had a 'softer' lodging tax.

As far as the economy being in the dumper and everybody having to suck it up, I highly doubt those people that are too broke to get by are traveling in the first place, much less staying in hotels. If I absolutely had to travel and could not afford a hotel, I would be staying in my car. Saying that the lodging tax hurts the economy even more is ignorant considering how little the tax costs anybody, especially the people of Moffat County. People do realize that almost all of this money is going towards marketing, economic development, and the beautification of Craig, right? To help unemployment and the bad economy?

I've found a pet peeve of mine is the same people that complain about taxes are the same that complain about pot holes in the ground, saying: "Where is our tax money going if it isn't to pot holes??!?!?!" or complaining because that is the only thing that they know. I realize the economy is not in a good shape, but lodging tax will have a null effect on the situation as a whole. "But, but, but taxes are evil!!!" Please let me know when you find an anarchist society where you are willing to provide subsistence for yourself without civilization caring for most of your needs.

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Reaver 4 years, 4 months ago

The moral of this story is that people have been brainwashed into thinking that "taxes" and "government" are bad, and that they are fulfilling some long lost interest in themselves by 'rebelling' but then complain when they aren't taken care of. Heck, all I can do is laugh/cry when the people on unemployment complain about the government, or when people completely against taxes complain when their social security is taken away. The day people wake up to their hypocrisies will be the end of the world. However, in the meantime, I realize that a lodging tax in Craig will have little to no effect on its residents besides providing money for economic development, which I believe in a few years WILL create jobs. People that think otherwise would do me a favor by creating a solid argument against it, with a solid basis. I guess I cannot see in any way how the lodging tax will not help the town of Craig as well as its residents.

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Nadja Rider 4 years, 4 months ago

Reaver, if you read my previous posts you will note that I never said anything about being against taxes or government. Those are your words. But let's be reasonable here, everything needs checks and balances. I certainly do not believe government should have free reign to tax as they wish. That is part of the problem in our country right now. So it's only $5 bucks here and there, who will notice right? Wrong, it all adds up.

You certainly cannot compare Denver's lodging tax rate to Craig's. And for the record, I don't stay in Denver, I will always choose a suburb with a lower rate. The combination of the price of lodging and tax rate does affect my decisions.

You also need to learn how unemployment and social security is funded. Out of our own and our employers' pockets, not Uncle Sam's. At least that's not the way it used to work. We have a large segment of our population that believes that they're somehow entitled to much more than what they contributed, that's where the problem lies. This country is spinning out of control from all the entitlement demands. It's time to bring that to a halt.

My point about the bad economy is that everyone needs to suck it up - so government should do likewise, instead of looking for more ways to tax.

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Reaver 4 years, 4 months ago

nadja,

Sorry if you felt I was attempting a personal debate with your posts. I was not. Some of your sentiments did end up in my posts, however I was not trying to bring up a debate/attack with you as much as give a general opinion of my beliefs. It just so happens I believe the majority of the American people are oblivious and just do what they are told to do by the radio, TV, media, friends, etc.

However, I do feel the lodging tax IS just five bucks here and there, for people that do NOT live in Craig. Compared to the ridiculous income tax and property taxes that amount to THOUSANDS of dollars, the lodging tax is really just a few bucks here and there. If people really believe that this will effect them negatively, then they should vote against it. This is not a tax that is free reign by the government, it is an open vote. I really feel that it will help Craig as a whole, and the extra five bucks here and there that TOURISTS have to spend will not even affect their judgment staying in Craig.

Second of all, why can't I compare Denver's lodging tax to Craig's when you compared it to Steamboat's and Aspen's? It's great that you stay in suburbs of Denver, but lets be honest, do you go through the whole process of booking a hotel room in every nearby city to check to see if the tax is 14% or 9%? Or would you rather take the room at $70 with 14% tax over the room that is $100 with 9% tax?

I agree completely with the rest of your post, and most of your opinion in general. However, I feel the lodging tax could be one that skirts your general beliefs.

Cheers!

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Nadja Rider 4 years, 4 months ago

Reaver, my point in mentioning Steamboat or Aspen was that their tax would be LOWER than Craig's proposed rate, and they have much more to offer in recreational opportunities. Can't compare to Denver either, that's like comparing apples to oranges, plus Denver has a convention center to pay off. Is Craig planning on providing the same amenities as Denver? Highly doubtful.

The tax if voted in does give the city free reign to do as it pleases with the funds. Over the years I've watched the MCTA squander many thousands of dollars on many bad decisions and many bad directors. The tax was in place and the money apparently seemed endless, and this was just at the 1.9% rate! Can you imagine how much more this 6.9% rate would generate? They simply don't need that much.

As far as shopping for the best lodging rates, it only takes a few minutes online. Type in any city + lodging tax, and whalla - google presents you with all the info you need!

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firstofthefallen 4 years, 4 months ago

I'm pretty sure it's "voila`" I'm also pretty sure most of this tax will be paid by business travelers working for fairly large companies in the pipeline and oil/gas industry. We should get as much of those dollars as we can.

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Nadja Rider 4 years, 4 months ago

No - I meant "whalla"! If I wanted to spell it voila, I would have.

I see, so if someone is perceived as having more money it's ok to tax more? Sounds like something Obama would come up with.

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firstofthefallen 4 years, 4 months ago

Large corporations have no problem taking money from American citizens with inflated prices while rewarding their executives with multi-million dollar bonuses. We should be able to take a little back. As far as your relatives not wanting to spend and extra $5 to visit then that may point so some other problem.

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Nadja Rider 4 years, 4 months ago

I never said my relatives didn't want to pay, I said I didn't want to pay the extra $5.

Lodging taxes affect everyone, not just corporations. Imposing a high tax just to get even with corporations is ridiculous.

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