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Breck surveys about half-cent tax

JANE STEBBINS

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge Town Council members don’t like what they’re hearing around town about their proposed half-cent sales tax, and are conducting a survey to see if pursuing the tax will be worth the effort.They hope to get the question on the Nov. 2 ballot, but members don’t want to if the majority of townsfolk don’t support it. The deadline to secure a spot on the ballot is looming, making timing that much more critical.The tax, if approved and implemented, would provide the town with more marketing and event dollars to attract additional visitors to town and boost sagging sales tax revenue. Breckenridge Resort Chamber (BRC) officials note that increasing competition, higher marketing costs and the fact that Colorado fell behind other states when voters turned down a marketing tax initiative in 1993 have made it difficult to stay competitive.But townsfolk apparently think the tax is a BRC tax, and, if the comments they’ve given to some town council members are any indication, they’re not too keen on giving the BRC more marketing dollars than it already receives from the town.”People have strong feelings about this,” councilmember J.B. Katz said at a recent town council work session. “You tell them this isn’t a BRC tax and they’re going to say, ‘Yeah, right.'”She suggested the town and BRC wait a year to give them more time to better educate citizens about such a tax.In recent years, the town council has given money to the BRC, but in previous years, they’ve been given to other vendors, said town manager Tim Gagen.”There is nothing that says the BRC is our marketing arm,” Gagen said. “The town will reevaluate who could run a new marketing plan and how. Maybe we’ll find the BRC is excellent at running events and we’d separate the events funds from marketing funds. There could be all kinds of mixes and matches.”The BRC receives almost $1 million from the town from Breckenridge Occupation Licensing Tax revenues. The new tax would bring an additional $1.2 million to town coffers for marketing and events.The town currently collects 2.5 percent – not including state, open space and other taxes. The tax would bring the total sales tax people pay to 8.65 percent.He noted that if the BRC is not granted the vendorship next year, that all the money – the $880,000 it currently receives and the anticipated $1.2 million from the tax – would go to the vendors who win the contract.”We need to assess the strengths of each vendor,” Gagen said. “We need to see how each is able to handle the challenge.”The town and BRC are conducting separate surveys to determine how well such a sales tax might be accepted in the retail community. BRC officials originally offered to conduct a telephone survey, but council members said that might affect the credibility of the survey.Instead, the town, with the assistance of RRC Associates of Boulder, now is polling business license holders.The BRC is conducting its own survey; it e-mailed and faxed surveys to 275 of its 500 members to solicit opinions. That deadline is Friday, so BRC officials can compile results and present them to the town council at its meeting next Tuesday.The surveys differ slightly because the BRC poll asks how else people would like to have that money spent.Some have questioned the scientific validity of the studies, however, saying that surveyors will have to educate callers about the tax and that could be perceived as trying to sway them.Councilmembers Katz and Eric Mamula noted that they’ve heard comments that the tax might not be well received. Some people believe the money will go straight to the BRC, although BRC executive director Corry Mihm said that’s up to the town council.”Theoretically, it could be used for marketing things other than what we do,” she said. “It could go to the whole marketing fund, or the grant process or earmarked solely for the BRC. It’s not clear. It’s wise that the ordinance is built with that flexibility. It needs change over time.”She pointed out that many retailers in the community are confused about the difference between BRC marketing and membership.If the town were to allocate all the revenue to the BRC, it is likely a new board would oversee how it was spent. Mihm would like to see that board comprised of both BRC and non-BRC members to get a better representation of the retail community.Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or at jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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