Vail Town Council: Lift Ticket Tax Increase Proposal off the Table for Now
The Vail Town Council will no longer seek a November ballot question to increase the town’s current four percent lift ticket tax. The 6-1 decision was made during the Tuesday, Aug. 16 Town Council meeting following a public hearing on the topic.
The possibility of asking Vail’s electorate to consider increasing the lift tax was initially posed by Councilman Dick Cleveland as a way to fund the construction of additional parking in town. Cleveland was the lone councilmember who continued to support the ballot measure at Tuesday’s meeting, explaining that he was frustrated by Vail Resorts’ inattention to the issue which seemed to contrast with cooperative efforts taking place in the communities of Park City, Breckenridge and Whistler.
In addressing the Town Council at the meeting, Chris Jarnot, Vail Mountain’s chief operating officer, took responsibility for allowing the partnership with the town to deteriorate. Jarnot pledged to improve the relationship and suggested – in lieu of a ballot measure – that monthly meetings involving Vail Mountain senior staff and town officials be initiated to bring about short-term and long-term solutions not only to the parking problems, but the shortage of employee housing, as well. Jarnot also presented information that he said shows Vail Resorts is not to blame for the town’s current parking challenges which has created overflow parking on the frontage road in record numbers.
Several community members spoke during the public hearing, including Andy Daly, former mayor and past president of Vail Mountain. Daly suggested the Town Council slow down and take the time it needs to work with its most important community partner to develop a plan.
Like Jarnot, Vail Mayor Dave Chapin was also apologetic for the town’s lack of communication with Vail Mountain and said he looked forward to renewing a healthy partnership with the expectation that timely progress will be made. He says the lift ticket tax increase should remain a consideration for next November if discussions aren’t productive.
Vail’s lift tax was first imposed by ordinance in 1966 as an occupation and business tax on places of business operating a ski lift or ski tow. This was the same time a similar two percent occupation and business tax was imposed on lodges, restaurants, liquor stores and retailers. In May 1992, the name of the tax was changed to Ski Area Lift Ticket Admissions Tax and the rate increased to four percent. Revenues from the tax are used to support the town’s general fund.
Annual revenue from the lift tax collected in 2015 was $4.7 million, and has averaged $4 million annually over the past five years. Lift tax is consistently among the town’s top five revenue sources, with sales tax, real estate transfer tax and parking ranking higher.