Attorney General to pay SRA a visit |

Attorney General to pay SRA a visit

Sarah S. Chung

Investigators from the state Attorney General’s Office will be in Snowmass Village this week examining the Snowmass Resort Association’s files.

Attorney General’s Office representatives will be trying to determine if the group’s civic assessment – a tax placed on goods and services in Snowmass Village – is in keeping with state law.

At issue is whether the SRA assessment has crossed into the realm of being a sales tax, which cannot be issued without voter approval. According to state bylaws, all customers who pay the SRA’s 2.3 percent civic assessment must be made aware that it is a separate amount above and beyond local and state taxes.

According to SRA president Terry Hunt, the Attorney General’s Office will be investigating whether the group and all its member businesses have been complying with the necessary conditions of the assessment.

“They’ll be looking at how the civic assessment’s been disclosed to all our guests and customers. I think the primary focus will be on reporting and proper disclosure,” Hunt said.

Assistant Attorney General Maria Berkenkotter said it was “impossible” for her or anyone else in her office to comment on any case prior to its conclusion.

In place since the founding of the SRA in 1967, the civic assessment was the subject of criticism in 1997 from former SRA president Dan Clemente. He charged that the SRA was not properly distinguishing the assessment from a tax. He also called for vote in 2000 that could shut the association down.

According to Clemente, the SRA starting using the term “civic assessment” when it was confronted by the attorney general’s office in the early 1980s.

“That’s when they stopped calling it a tax and started calling it a civic assessment under the guise of a tax. They got approached by the state and that’s all hush, hush, secret, secret,” said Clemente in an earlier interview with The Aspen Times.

Hunt claims that state taxes are calculated after the civic assessment, based on an item’s price plus the assessment. He believes there is plenty of distinction between an assessment and a sales tax.

In addition, SRA officials say they are not worried about the Attorney General’s Office rifling through 26 boxes of files going back seven years.

“We extended the invitation. This is definitely not something born out of a summons or some kind of court order,” said SRA vice president Jeff Tippett. “We extended a friendly invitation and they accepted.”

He said business associations in Keystone, Beaver Creek, and Telluride all have similar forms of the SRA’s civic assessment. And for that reason, he’s not anxious “in the least.”

“We’ll be here drinking our coffee,” Hunt said.

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