S’mass raises business tax | AspenTimes.com

S’mass raises business tax

Even though sales have slumped the last two years, Snowmass Village businesses will be required to charge their customers with an extra “civic assessment” starting in November.

The Snowmass Village Resort Association notified its members last week that it was raising its mandatory civic assessment by nearly 1 percent for fiscal 2001. That boosts the total sales tax and civic assessment in the village to 10.99 percent – higher than any resort in Colorado except Beaver Creek, according to SVRA general manager Terry Hunt.

The resort association’s board of governors raised the mandatory assessment – which serves as a sales tax but legally cannot be called that – from 2.3 percent to 3.25 percent at a Sept. 1 meeting. Retail shops and restaurants were notified of the change by letter last week.

The extra revenues will be devoted to increased winter marketing, special events and facilities (see related story) and potentially a second conference center.

The resort association board will decide this winter whether to build the second conference center on Daly Lane.

The decision appears to be a foregone conclusion, considering the letter announcing the additional civic assessment.

“Beginning in fiscal 2003, this entire increase will be dedicated to the debt service of the new conference facility to be build on Daly Lane,” board chairman Walter Morrissey wrote to members.

The extra assessment comes at a time when the business climate in Snowmass is troubled.

“We’re obviously trying to turn this thing around,” said Hunt, who recently announced his resignation as the chamber’s leader. Skier visits are down 15 percent over the last two winters, he noted. Gross sales are down 20 percent over the last two summers.

Given that performance, Hunt acknowledged that some shop and restaurant owners could reasonably argue that now isn’t the time to be adding expense to their products.

He counters that now is precisely the time that Snowmass Village must increase marketing and sales efforts. “We’re anxious to turn the business around,” Hunt said.

In addition to an economic slump for the town – although one that hasn’t affected the real estate market – SVRA is somewhat in turmoil. In addition to Hunt’s coming departure, the marketing director recently quit, leaving major holes in the management team.

The resort association has been criticized by some members for refusing to release an audit of its financial practices and condition. Some members also question the resort association’s handling of marketing and special events.

And the civic assessment has always been a sore spot – even before the latest 1-percent increase. When Snowmass Village was created in the mid-1960s, covenants required businesses in the mall area to belong to the resort association.

Morrissey said the 13-member SVRA board realized there would be “some resistance” to the increased fee.

However, supporters were “hopeful” that members would study the town’s position and come to the same conclusion – that the assessment is necessary and SVRA’s proposed uses will improve business.

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