Breckenridge hits pause on lift ticket tax
Ryan Summerlin November 9, 2011
BRECKENRIDGE – The town put a proposed lift ticket tax ballot question on hold temporarily Wednesday, opting to work toward an agreement with Vail Resorts to fund improvements to the town and ski area transit systems.
The amusement tax, which would be levied on the sale of lift tickets and other entertainment admissions sales, was intended to help fund an enhanced bus system that would likely combine the town and resort’s existing bus services.
“We’ve wanted to have a revenue stream that would fund ongoing expenses,” Mayor John Warner said. “There’re a lot of things we can do to improve our (transit) system on the front end, but we still have to maintain it.”
Breckenridge Ski Resort is strongly opposed to the tax measure and, in recent talks with the town, offered to come to the table and discuss financial contributions to future transit improvements in lieu of a ballot question.
“We are opposed to an amusement tax here,” BSR chief operating officer Pat Campbell said. “We feel it’s not the right time. It’s not the message we want to send to our guests right now.”
Campbell said the company would oppose an amusement tax in any of its resort communities and that it was particularly bad timing following last year’s lodging tax increase.
Some council members were concerned a tax might scare away skiers or cause them to chose another resort over Breckenridge.
But a group of residents in Breckenridge is strongly in favor of the amusement tax and has reportedly already drafted the petition needed to present the ballot question as a citizens’ initiative. They are expected to begin gathering signatures if the council does not approve it’s own lift ticket ballot question, town council members said in budget discussions Wednesday.
The council agreed to work with Vail Resorts and to attempt to delay a citizens’ initiative in the meantime. If an agreement for transportation improvements is not reached “in a timely manner” council members indicated they would push forward with the lift ticket tax question.
“We will continue conversations with the ski corp,” Warner said. “If we make progress we (will) do our best to head off this (citizens’) group.”
It is still unclear whether or how much of a financial commitment from Vail Resorts might come out of talks between the ski company and the town.
Ski communities in Utah and Colorado, including Vail currently levy lift ticket taxes, officials said.