Government & Politics  November 8, 2022

Election 2022: 3 of 4 lodging tax hikes head for easy wins

Voters in Estes Park, Lyons and Nederland on Tuesday night were soundly approving increases in lodging taxes to fund workforce housing, child care for workers and other communities.

In the Weld County town of Hudson, however, a lodging-tax hike was failing.

The flurry of lodging-tax increases to fund workforce housing on Tuesday’s ballot was a response to a bill signed last spring by Gov. Jared Polis that permitted towns to put such issues on their ballots.

In visitor-dependent Estes Park, which saw a major push by its economic-development and tourism agencies to come up with solutions for housing seasonal workers and caring for their children, the ballot issue was winning 2,649 to 1,546 by 10 p.m. In Lyons, the margin was even wider, with 545 votes in favor and 135 opposed. And in Nederland, a lodging-tax increase was passing, 367-112.

Hudson voters, however, were rejecting a similar measure 218-144.

Crafted by a citizen task force made up of representatives of Visit Estes Park, the Estes Park Economic Development Corp., the town and area residents, the ballot issue there would raise lodging taxes within the local marketing district by an additional 3.5% to raise an estimated $6.3 million for housing seasonal workers and helping provide child care, to be allocated by the town’s Board of Trustees. The current lodging tax is 2%. 

Because lodging taxes are assessed on visitors to the town’s hotels, motels, inns, bed-and-breakfasts, vacation-home rentals and other overnight accommodations instead of on residents, the increase was billed as “the tax you don’t pay.”

The local marketing district includes Estes Park, Glen Haven and Drake.

In Lyons, the lodging tax would be raised from $2 per night to a maximum of 8% of the total nightly rate for visitors to short-term rentals and campsites. The $2-per-night tax had been approved by Lyons voters in April 2018, but the proceeds hadn’t proved adequate to cover the impacts of tourist traffic on town streets and municipal services.

According to the ballot language, the tax would start at $5 per night on Jan. 1 and be applied to bookings on and after that date, and the Board of Trustees could raise the levy to 8%. Town officials estimate the tax increase would generate an additional $135,000 in its first fiscal year.

In Nederland, where voters also were on the way to approving, by similarly large margins, imposition of a 5% sales tax on marijuana and related products as well as an 0.25% general sales tax hike to pay for law-enforcement and public-safety enhancements, the occupational tax will be raised from $2 to $4 per night per bedroom. The town estimates that the increase will amount to $45,000 annually in the first full fiscal year beginning Jan. 1, generating an estimated $35,000 in annual revenue that would be used for health and human-services programs and activities.

Hudson’s ballot issue would have levied a 3% lodging tax, generating about $200,000 in fiscal year 2023 for “general governmental purposes” including streets, park and recreational facilities, infrastructure and law enforcement.

This story will be updated as more votes are tabulated. 

Dallas Heltzell
With BizWest since 2012 and in Colorado since 1979, Dallas worked at the Longmont Times-Call, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Public News Service. A Missouri native and Mizzou School of Journalism grad, Dallas started as a sports writer and outdoor columnist at the St. Charles (Mo.) Banner-News, then went to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before fleeing the heat and humidity for the Rockies. He especially loves covering our mountain communities.
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