Audience offers both challenges, support for Craig’s sales, use tax measure
Craig — Audience participation was plentiful at Thursday night’s sales and use tax community meeting at the Center of Craig.
From concern about additional tax on the hotel industry to pleas to help Craig become a more resourced and attractive place for new businesses, community members both challenged the new tax and offered compelling reasons to approve it.
“Over the last few years, we’ve been cutting every single year with the hope that the economy was going to rebound and we wouldn’t have to do a sales tax increase,” said Craig Chief of Police Walt Vanatta. “That’s obviously not happening. We’ve cut over $1 million out of our budget. You can only cut so much and still provide service.”
The Craig Police Department is by far the largest expenditure area for the city at more than $3 million budgeted for 2017, according to materials distributed at the meeting by City of Craig Finance Director Bruce Nelson.
The department has cut five positions in the past three years, but saw a 4-percent increase in calls in 2016 and a 12-percent increase in criminal calls.
The proposed sales tax increase of 1.25 percent would bring Craig’s city sales tax from its current rate of 2.25 percent to 3.5 percent. It would generate an estimated $2.5 million in revenue to compensate for a $2 million decline in revenue since 2008.
But Tammie Thompson-Booker with Candlewood Suites in Craig expressed frustration on behalf of hotel owners and operators that they feel hard hit by the local marketing district tax and now a possible sales tax increase. Local hotel sales taxes would increase from 13.05 percent currently — including a recently implemented 4-percent LMD lodging tax — to 14.3 percent.
“Your workers who come to this community… who get paid a per diem, really do look at the tax,” Thompson-Booker said. “The business has to take the hit on it — I have to take the rate hike — and it’s frustrating.”
Community member Joel Sheridan, meanwhile, pointed to data provided at the meeting showing Craig’s current sales tax of 2.25 percent as the lowest of any in the surrounding area, with Meeker at 3.6 percent and Steamboat Springs at 4.5 percent.
“I’d just like to ask the question… why we in our community sit around here and think that we can run a community with a quality of life at a certain level… for anywhere from 100-percent less to… the average is 50-percent less than any other community around here?” Sheridan said.