Opinion | Bruce Butler: Why I will support the Silverthorne ballot issue | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Bruce Butler: Why I will support the Silverthorne ballot issue

Bruce Butler
Common Sense Conversations

Of the things that rank high on my personal irritation index, litter and taxes are among the top. Ironically, when you have more people, it seems there is both more litter and taxes. I can’t really think of a good excuse for littering, other than a small percentage of it may be truly accidental. With taxes, I am fundamentally practical and understand that some taxes are essential for public safety and the efficient functioning of society.

In a more perfect world, I would like to see taxes periodically sunset and need to be reaffirmed by the taxpayers. Yes, I know and understand the argument about guaranteed sources of revenue in order to long-term finance this, that and the other, but new and increased taxes inevitably lead to more government growth, which in turn necessitates more taxes to pay for all the new obligations the government has assumed.

Those who are living paycheck to paycheck are usually the losers. Needs and circumstances change over time, but the list of taxes that have been repealed is microscopically small. High-tax states like California, New York and New Jersey didn’t start out as high-tax states, but after several generations of incremental tax increases, people are fleeing these states because high taxes have become an impediment to affordable living and overall quality of life.

We all know Summit County has seen a lot of growth over the past 10-20 years. Growth, in and of itself, is not necessarily bad, but growth does increase demand for even the most basic services, like snow plowing roads, fixing potholes and providing essential police services. Silverthorne has approached that crossroads with the additions of Fourth Street Crossing, all the new condos along the Blue River, Smith Ranch and more to come. Back when I was on the Silverthorne Town Council, we used to talk about the need to pay for what we did, including the long-term ownership costs.

While Smith Ranch is all locals, a significant portion of the need for additional services, asset management and preventative maintenance has been driven by growth among second-home owners and visitors. Recognizing that Silverthorne does need to pay for the long-term costs of maintaining all the new town assets, I will vote for the town’s Ballot Issue No. 1 in the April 5 municipal election, for which registered voters should have received a U.S. mail ballot.

The ballot issue would raise the current town of Silverthorne 2% lodging tax to 6% and lift the current restrictions on use of the lodging tax revenue, opening up the tax revenue to any municipally approved uses. The lodging tax would apply to hotels and short-term home rentals, too. The estimated annual lodging tax increase is in the $2.4 million range.

My reasons for supporting the ballot issue are primarily twofold:

  • The increased lodging tax has the least impact on full-time residents.
  • I steadfastly oppose levying a town of Silverthorne property tax on residents.

Fortunately, town voters have rejected a town property tax to date, and I view the increased lodging tax as a reasonable compromise.

My one caveat to the incoming Town Council is this: If the Biden administration and the Federal Reserve continue to mismanage inflation and dip the economy into prolonged recession, please closely monitor the economic health of the town’s growing hotel industry and consider temporarily suspending at least some of the increase in order to lessen the impact on a key industry and local employer that will be disproportionately impacted by a national economic downturn. If you want to decrease short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods, there needs to be a healthy hotel industry.

The bottom line is, we are really blessed to be able to concern ourselves with civic issues like lodging tax. The war atrocities in Ukraine are a poignant reminder of how fortunate we really are to live in Summit County, one of the most beautiful places on earth. Please exercise your right to vote this April, and thanks to all the municipal candidates in Blue River, Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne who have placed themselves in nomination to serve their communities.

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