Pandemic weary tourists flooded into Durango in 2021, generating nearly $700,000 more in lodgers tax revenues than allowed by Tabor, and city residents may be asked to decide on what to do with the money during November’s general election. You’re watching the Local News Roundup, brought to you by Ute Casino Hotel and TBK Bank. I’m Hannah Robertson. When voters approved a 3.25% increase in the lodgers tax last spring, the ballot question set a limit on collections as required by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, better known as the TABOR Amendment. And with the pandemic still raging throughout the country, the limit was set at a conservative $900,000 for 2021. But a post COVID rebound in tourism in Summer 2021 generated nearly $1,600,000 in revenue, about $700,000 more than the TABOR limit. A similar excess is expected by the end of 2022. According to TABOR, excess revenues are supposed to be returned to the taxpayers who paid the taxes, and the original tax rate must be reduced to limit future revenues. But in this case, the taxpayers are out of town lodging guests and returning the money is logistically impossible. So, now what? The city may ask voters this November to decide what to do with the money and with future revenue limits.
That’s the big unknown right now, which is what the ballot language will say in November for how to deal with that overage. Because they could decide what to do with the 2021 money. They could decide what to do with the 2022 estimated overage too. They could decide to take the money and spend it according to the initial ballot language, which was, you know, 55% for tourism, 20% for transportation, et cetera. Or they could go in a different direction.
Sluis said City Council will come up with some proposals and will hold public hearings in August to obtain community feedback. It has until September 9th to decide. That’s the deadline for finalizing the ballot question. To follow lodgers tax developments, visit durangogov.org. Will the Camino del Rio underpass at 12th Street be delayed again? Although an underpass that would connect the Animus River Trail to Downtown has been a discussion in the community for more than 20 years, it wasn’t until 2020 that the city conducted a feasibility study to determine where a pedestrian crossing could be safely installed across Camino. The feasibility study determined that the underpass at 12th street would be the best option, and the city set aside funds to begin design and engineering work, with a bid to be awarded sometime in 2023. That may change. In its annual rankings of capital improvement projects, the Multimodal Advisory Committee has listed the crossing as a number two priority, but has set construction for 2027, 3 years later than the original start deadline. The Business Improvement District has advocated that the project be started sooner than the revised date. The Multimodal and Parks and Recreation Advisory Boards are expected to come up with their final priorities list by the end of July. The City Council ultimately will decide what those priorities are as part of its budgeting process. In the meantime, you can weigh in on what the city’s budgeting priorities should be by taking an online survey at durangogov.org, or attend a town hall meeting from 5:30 to 6:30 PM on Wednesday, July 27th at Durango City Council Chambers. Put on your dancing boots. Asleep at the Wheel, a 10 time Grammy winning Western swing band, will be the featured performers at the annual La Plata County Fair on Friday, August 12th. Midnight Backhand, a Bayfield country rock band, will open at 7:15 PM, with Asleep at the Wheel taking the stage at 8:00 PM. Reserved seating in the grandstand is $48. General admission in the front area in front of the stand is $28, but you’ll have to bring your own chair. Tickets are available at durangoconcerts.com. That’s it for this week’s roundup. Thanks for watching. I’m Hannah Robertson.