Basalt lodging tax may be used to market town | AspenTimes.com
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Basalt lodging tax may be used to market town

The Basalt Town Council is leaning toward asking voters in November to create a lodging tax but opinions are divided on whether revenues should be used to market the town.

Three of the four council members who attended a meeting Tuesday night strongly supported adding a 2 percent tax on lodge rooms. An estimated $24,000 would be raised at the current rate of lodging sales.

Figuring out how to use the funds proved to be the tricky part. Councilwoman Tiffany Gildred said she could only support the proposal if funds were earmarked for town marketing efforts. That way, she said, the lodges that must assess the tax would receive some benefit.

Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt favored using the funds to build and maintain trails. She noted that the town master plan promotes trails and pedestrian access but few efforts are made by the town government to back the words.

“We’re not addressing the pedestrian issues,” said Whitsitt. “We talk about pedestrian this and pedestrian that.”

Councilman Leroy Duroux felt acquisition and maintenance of park land should also be in the mix.

Councilwoman Anne Freedman said she felt the town needed financial help with its marketing effort. Basalt has a chamber resort association but membership is voluntary for businesses. A discounted ski pass provides an incentive to join but its budget is small and marketing is limited.

While Freedman said she is sympathetic to the need for increased marketing efforts, using a town tax to raise marketing funds could be controversial. She said it could doom the tax proposal.

Whitsitt agreed, noting that some residents don’t want more tourists attracted to town.

Gildred was on the other end of the spectrum. She said she didn’t want any of the funds used for trails. She wanted it all for marketing.

Gildred noted more than once that she has a biased opinion on the topic. She purchased the Aspenwood Lodge in Basalt last month, so she is one of only three lodge operators that would be affected by the tax.

Gildred didn’t disqualify herself from debating the issue because she said town attorney Jody Edwards concluded she doesn’t have a conflict of interest since the lodging tax is of general applicability.

The council members present at the meeting directed the staff to prepare proposed ballot wording for a 2 percent lodging tax, but they concluded the full council was needed to decide what uses would be proposed for revenues.

Gildred also requested that the staff invite the operators of the two other lodges in town for the next discussion of the tax so their concerns could be heard.

The final wording of the ballot question doesn’t have to be prepared until Sept. 10.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]


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