Breckenridge, Vail Resorts debate admissions tax merits
summit daily news
BRECKENRIDGE – The Breckenridge Town Council said Tuesday it wants to put an admissions tax measure before voters in the near future, despite protests from Vail Resorts representatives.
The admissions tax would be charged on lift tickets and other entertainment-based sales in Breckenridge. Revenue collected could potentially be used to fund new parking infrastructure or a coordinated bus system between the town and Breckenridge Ski Resort. The two entities currently each operate separate transit services.
The possibility of a lift ticket tax has been discussed by the town council in the past, but the question never made it to the ballot.
“As long as I’ve been here, we’ve been coming up with reasons not to do it,” Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron said. “I think … the sentiment of the community is that they would like us to put it on the ballot and then we’ll see. Let the people vote on it.”
The tax – if approved by voters – could be applied to lift ticket sales, summer fun park revenue, bar and restaurant cover charges, theater tickets, sleigh ride revenue and event ticket sales. A 4.5 percent admissions tax would bring in an estimated $2.9 million dollars annually from lift ticket sales alone, but no decisions on the amount or scope of the tax have been made, town officials said.
Representatives of Vail Resorts, which owns several ski areas including Breckenridge and Keystone, said the company does not support the tax, and that the council is “putting the cart before the horse,” by pushing for a tax measure before establishing a need for the funds.
A study of Breckenridge transit services, intended to determine the feasibility of a seamless bus system, is set to be conducted later this year. The town received a CDOT grant to fund the $40,000 study.
Discussions of an admissions tax ballot measure come less than a year after voters approved a 1 percent lodging tax increase to supplement town marketing efforts.
“We thought the results of the transit study would set the table for us to come to the table,” Vail Resorts spokeswoman Kristin Williams said. “To go out there and do a back-to-back tax on our guests without determining the need, I think is a mistake.”
If it is implemented, Vail Resorts will pass the tax expense along to its customers, Williams said. Skiers and snowboarders currently do not pay a sales tax on lift ticket prices, but do on rentals, food and beverages purchased on the mountain.
Town officials said the council would prefer to have the support of Vail Resorts moving forward with the ballot measure.
But, support of the admissions tax is strong enough in the community that a citizens’ group might bring the initiative forward if the town government didn’t put it on the ballot, council members said.
“I think this is going to happen,” Councilman and local restaurant owner Mark Burke said. “All you have to do is listen to the conversations in our pub. There are groups that are going to push for it if we don’t.”
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