Silverthorne voters approve lodging tax for capitol projects; debt service proposal for workforce

The 135-unit Smith Ranch Apartments, an affordable housing project, is pictured under construction on Oct. 3, 2023. A ballot measure that would allow the town to take on more debt to finance future workforce housing projects faced a tight vote, with preliminary results as of Tuesday night showing the measure passing by just three votes.
Robert Tann/Summit Daily News archive

Voters in the town of Silverthorne approved an increase to the town’s lodging tax while another ballot measure that seeks to raise the town’s debt limit was too close to call, according to preliminary election results as of 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Ballot Question 1, which would raise the town’s lodging tax from the current 6% to 8% to pay for capitol projects, was passing with 480 votes in favor and 323 against.

Ballot Question 2, which would allow the town to take on an additional $50 million in debt to pay for workforce housing projects, had 402 votes in favor and 399 against. The final vote count won’t be official until April 10 after outstanding ballots have been cured and overseas ballots have been received.

“It’s been a few decades since we’ve had anything remotely that close,” said Town Manager Ryan Hyland.

The measure would allow the town to finance future workforce housing developments with a $50 million debt limit and up to $100 million in repayment, figures that are representative of how much the town can afford to borrow and pay back based on current interest rates. It would not increase any existing taxes.

If ultimately passed, it would represent the second time in less than three years that voters have approved financing for workforce housing after Summit County voters extended a sales tax for affordable housing projects in 2021. 

“I think from my perspective, I hope it swings in the ‘yes’ direction,” Hyland said. “We know that workforce housing is such an important thing for this community, and if we can leverage those dollars faster that’s great. If we can’t, it just becomes a bit of cash flow issue and that becomes slower.”

Hyland added that even without the debt financing, the town will “find one way or another” to move forward on workforce housing projects, “but we’re hoping we can do more work sooner than later.”

The proposal to raise the town’s lodging tax, which appeared poised to pass with nearly 60% of votes in favor as of Tuesday night, will go toward expanding the Silverthorne Recreation Center as well as creating a dedicated police facility. Voters last raised Silverthorne’s lodging tax in 2022 from 2% to the current 6%, marking the first time the town had approved a lodging tax increase since 1998.

“We just have a lot of visitor impacts, and so we see — whether it’s police services or the recreation center — we see a lot of impacts,” Hyland said. “So I think our community sees there’s a logical nexus in lodging taxes to pay for that.”

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With an estimated cost of $15 million, increased square footage at the recreation center could lead to new gym programming and even a space for school-aged care. The project could take two years to complete, according to Hyland.

“We have, really over the last 10-plus years, remodeled and done things to utilize every existing square-foot,” Hyland said. “And we’ve maxed that out.”

A new building for the police department, which is currently housed in the Silverthorne Town Hall, could cost $27 million, according to preliminary budget estimates. A report released last August found that the police department’s current space in Town Hall does not meet its needs, with officials saying this has restricted services for the roughly 5,000 people the department serves. The project could be finished within three years, Hyland said.

Tuesday’s election also saw four Town Council incumbents keep their seats after all four ran uncontested.

Council members Tim Applegate, Amy Manka and Tanecia Spagnolia were the top three vote-getters. They received 464 votes, 442 votes and 432 votes, respectively, and were each reelected to four-year terms. Council member Jonnah Glassman received 421 votes and, as the lowest vote-getter, will serve a two-year term.

Manka said she is supportive of the debt-service proposal that is currently too close to call, adding, “I do see workforce housing needing to still be a top priority.”

But she also said the vote’s tight margins show that “no matter what opportunity comes ahead of us, I think we need to be very deliberative of what we choose, and that it’s what is actually needed for the community.”

Read More: Silverthorne voters approve lodging tax for capitol projects; debt service proposal for workforce

2024-04-03 03:58:27

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