Referendum 2B May Determine if Air Service to Steamboat is not 2B

Yampa Valley Airport in Steamboat Springs
Yampa Valley Airport in Steamboat Springs

 Read my lips . . . you know what’s next.

There are a few key issues on this November’s ballot in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, but one in particular has a lot at stake – providing future transportation for visitors to fly into Yampa Valley Regional Airport. What does Referendum 2B entail? In a nutshell:

  • If passed, every time you spend $100, 25 cents will go to support increasing the air seats flying in to YVRA.
  • In effect it means an increased sales tax of .0025 which would raise our Steamboat
  • Springs sales tax to 8.65%.
  • It is scheduled to expire after 5 years.

So what’s an additional 25 cents on every $100 provide:

  • An estimated $1.3 million annually to help support air travel to Steamboat Springs.

Why is the vitality of Steamboat Springs/Yampa Valley Regional Airport air program important? Numerical estimates state (and I quote)

  • Every 92 passengers coming into YVRA supports 1 additional local job.
  • Every 1,000 passengers generates an estimated $11.1M in local spending -based on 2008 CDOT study.
  • Without Referendum 2B passing, within 2 years winter airline seat availability is projected to decrease by 50% from the high 2007/2008 levels.

Additional “In Favor Of” arguments are:

  • Air service supports Steamboat Spring’s economy and quality of life.
  • Without Minimum Revenue Guarantees, airlines will discontinue flights to Steamboat.
  • Without the air service alternative, people will not travel to Steamboat

Other points worth noting before the “Not in Favor Of” Referendum 2B arguments are noted:

  • Ski Corporation has been and will continue to pay a minimum of $1.1M annually to fund the minimum revenue guarantees.
  • The Local Marketing District has been and will continue to contribute a 2% lodging tax to fund the minimum service guarantees.
  • Vail is working on an international flight program that will make it easier to fly directly to Vail from international locations with only refueling stops en route.
  • The I-70 corridor has long range improvement plans that entail major construction between the years of 2015 and 2020 that will severely impact the drive time between Denver and Steamboat thus making flight options a “must have” to attract visitors to the Yampa Valley.

While you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t agree that air service to Yampa Valley Regional Airport is critical to the long term vitality of the Steamboat Springs visitors/tourist industry, you will find many who disagree on the proposed 25 cent tax to raise the needed funds. Other ideas floated to generate additional income include but are not limited to:

  • Taxing timeshare and vacation club accommodations which as private residences aren’t being taxed for their commercial use.
  • Levy an additional rental car tax for car rentals at YVRA.
  • Charge parking fees at the free Knoll and Meadows lots as well as charging a fee to ride the currently free bus system.
  • Mandate Ski Corp pass along a portion of the annual ski pass fee (one of the highest (if not the highest all perks considered) in the state) to increase it’s minimum revenue guarantee support
  • Add a sales tax to all lift tickets to help fund the Fly Steamboat program

It’s not going to be an easy fix, but one that certainly needs to be addressed now in order to plan for the future vitality of the Yampa Valley, Steamboat Ski Resort and all the businesses and community citizens who rely on visitors coming to ski, bike, relax and enjoy second homes in our corner of Northwest Colorado. In an era of tough economic times, raising the sales tax is going to be a tough sell. In a July poll, the Steamboat Pilot and Today posed the question: “Would you vote for an increased sales tax to support the Fly Steamboat air program?” 426 voters responded with an overwhelming 71% voting no and 28% voting yes…seems likely that heading into November proponents of both sides will be campaigning hard.

One final note – basic laws of economic supply and demand would indicate that a greater supply of seats would mean a lower cost per ticket, but even that’s not guaranteed. Why? Because every airline has been cutting back on flights due to not filling seats…so even though the Fly Steamboat program might find the funding to adequately support increasing airline seats, airline companies are corporations with their own bottom lines and they won’t fly planes at 50% occupancy for long. Stay tuned as the conundrum continues to play out…the future of Steamboat Springs is definitely at stake, and the answers are not clear cut or without consequences regardless of the path taken.

—For more information on buying real estate or questions regarding Steamboat Springs real estate or renting a home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, feel free to call Charlie at 970-846-6435 or write me an email at: