Breckenridge to ask residents if they would support taxing short-term rentals to fund child care or transportation |

Breckenridge to ask residents if they would support taxing short-term rentals to fund child care or transportation

A Breck Free Ride bus waits for passengers to load up Tuesday, March 16, at the main transit station in Breckenridge. The Breckenridge Town Council plans to ask residents in a survey whether they would support taxing short-term rental customers to fund child care or transportation.
Photo by Ashley Low

The Breckenridge Town Council is reconsidering the idea to tax short-term rental customers to help pay for child care and thinks taxing visitors to pay for transportation might make more sense.

At the Town Council work session Tuesday, March 9, council planned to go over the child care revenue survey that will be sent out to Breckenridge residents. The survey is designed to determine whether residents would support a ballot measure to help fund the town’s child care centers.

Specifically, Breckenridge Housing and Child Care Planning Manager Laurie Best wrote in a memo to council that a goal of the survey is to evaluate support for funding the program with an “up to” 1% accommodation tax on short-term rental properties.

Mayor Eric Mamula said he’s had a difficult time creating the link between short-term rental impacts and child care.

“I know that as more people rent their properties and we get more people coming to town, that creates a need for more employees that increase a need for more child care,” Mamula said. “There is a nexus there. I think it’s a difficult one to argue, though, and I’ve had a hard time in my own mind creating that argument.”

Town Manager Rick Holman said it might be more successful and appropriate to use a tax on short-term rentals to help fund transit. He said the town currently subsidizes transportation to offer the Breck Free Ride bus system. Mamula said the argument for taxing short-term rentals to fund transportation is more clear.

Holman noted that the costs of transit are rising along with demand. He explained that when the town considered discontinuing bus service to Upper Warrior’s Mark, comments were received predominantly from short-term rental operators saying the service was important to their businesses. Several commenters added that they would be willing to help pay for bus service, Holman said.

“Maybe it’s better to tie that additional tax onto those nonexempt short-term rental properties to help fund … transit,” Holman said. “That is money that is freed up to allow you to use in other high-need areas like child care. And so you’re accomplishing the same thing, but you’re doing it in a way that might make more sense.”

Holman said if council agrees to change the tax purpose, the drafted survey would be rewritten and presented again to council in a future meeting.

Council member Dick Carleton suggested that the survey ask residents whether they would be supportive of a tax on short-term rental customers for child care or for transit.

“I think that’s the large part of the survey is that first step in understanding what the community supports, if they understand it,” council member Carol Saade said. “I think we’re back at the drawing board, a little bit, in which issue are we prioritizing?”

David Flaherty, founder of Magellan Strategies — the company contracted to organize the survey — said it could be redesigned to measure both interests. However, he said the survey should explain that if the tax revenue goes toward transit, it would free up money for child care.

“The most important thing is for (survey respondents) to … get a clear direction of why we’re asking what we’re asking, where we’re going so that it’s very open, it’s very transparent, and they understand no decisions have been made,” Flaherty said.

Council member Kelly Owens said she doesn’t think council is in a position to decide whether it will structure the ballot measure around taxing for child care or for transportation and likes the idea of conducting the survey in a way that would inform the council’s next steps.

Holman said the survey would be redesigned to determine which direction voters would be more likely to support.

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