The City of Salida has proposed a funding source for the negative cash operations of the Community Pool that will be entirely borne by visitors to Salida. This is unjust, as it requires any visitor to unwittingly provide what amounts to a charitable contribution to the town of Salida. The proposed tax of $4.82 per room night would bring in approximately $600,000 in revenue to the City to pay for operating losses of the pool and presumably the new contemplated recreation center. Very few of these visitors will actually use the pool, and if they do, are also be required to pay a daily fee for that privilege.
One can only imagine that the need for this tax has arisen from poor planning, administration and operations of the pool. The failed new pipeline was a massive net loss to the city, (though it has received a grant of $1,500,000 to have the water line replaced) as well as the new roof and structural improvements. It’s not surprising to see the City propose a funding source for the loss, however this is not the best means of doing so.
From the City website, the 2008 expected revenue from pool operations is $260,000 and the cost to operate the pool is $450,000 for an ANNUAL operating loss of $190,000. Originally, the City had proposed a $2.00 charge per room night. Why now the $4.82 per night proposal?
Perhaps the City is thinking that it will cover the annual operating loss of $190,000 and THEN WHAT? Well, the City 2008 budget contemplates the construction of an addition to the pool, presumably a recreation center that will cost $3,500,000 in 2009. It can certainly expect to have operational losses on this facility as well, perhaps as much as $300-400,000 per year. What better way to cover this cost than to charge it to unsuspecting visitors?
The City’s position is that visitors to the community itself are by far the largest user group of the pool. If this is true then why on City letterhead does Trish Bews, write as follows for the 2008 budget:
“The stated mission of the Salida Recreation and Aquatic Center is to provide excellence in recreation, education, and fitness to enhance the quality of life in our community.”… “Being City-funded, our recreation programs are geared toward locals.”
2007 Department Accomplishments
Too many to list, but all are community oriented.
Hence, the City is contradicting itself as to the purpose and use of the pool.
The City also believes that visitors to town just will not notice an “extra” charge of $4.82 to their hotel bill. I can assure you that they most certainly will. Mixing a flat fee and a percentage tax charge to bills will bring scrutiny to visitor charges and create anger that will modify behavior.
Visitors just do not come to the Valley to swim in the pool, which as far as “Hot Springs” go is a complete farce. When the pool was closed for repairs, there was no drop in visits or CCVB revenue from the lodging tax. The pool is not an attraction that brings in visitors; it is merely an amenity to the town of Salida residents.
Hence, users of the pool should pay any negative cash flow from operations, meaning the community should pay through the existing sales tax of the town/county, which appear to contribute 80% of the operating revenue for the City.
Citizens should scrutinize the costs of operating the pool carefully. The relative utility of the pool and the proposed recreational building appear to be dubious at best given current City finances. City finances are in serious jeopardy given the current national economic situation and the likely rescission of contract by the purchaser of the Vandaveer property.
Taxing visitors for community projects sets a poor precedent and opens the door to further misuse of taxing privilege by the government. If this tax is approved, where does the process end?
Presently, Chaffee County visitors enjoy the best bang for the buck on outdoor activities. This valley offers the widest range and best quality of sports in any season. It also has the best price point by far. In winter, a skier can spend four days at Monarch, stay and eat in town, for what a day would cost at many of the other state ski areas. At Monarch, we intend to be price-sensitive and keep our end of the bargain in offering a great value for the recreation we provide. We simply ask that the City do the same.
Monarch Ski Area