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Durango business leaders back lodgers tax support committee

Group paid for ads, yard signs and legal counsel
The committee in favor of increasing the lodgers tax is primarily supported by business leaders, according to campaign-finance records.

Five people, all leaders in Durango’s business community, are the primary funders of a campaign committee advocating for the Durango lodgers tax to be increased.

The only measure on the April 6 ballot, measure 1-A, asks residents to increase Durango’s lodgers tax, which is paid by guests in commercial lodging establishments. If residents vote for the measure, the tax will increase from its current rate, 2%, to 5.25% in perpetuity. If the measure fails, the tax will remain at 2%.

“We only have one (committee) registered, and that’s the one that’s for the lodgers tax,” said Amy Phillips, Durango clerk and recorder. No opposition committee registered with the city.

The Tax Locals Don’t Pay committee raised $8,375 between mid-February and Friday, according to the city’s campaign finance records.

About 60% of the committee’s budget came from five people, each of whom gave $1,000: Amy Hartline, Bill Carver, Jim Carver, Chris Vivolo and Angie Beach.

The Carvers own Carver Brewing Co. in Durango. Bill Carver is the former president of the Durango Creative District and helped create a joint community proposal outlining how the lodgers tax revenue could be allocated. Durango City Council considered the proposal before approving the final ballot measure.

Vivolo owns the Hampton Inn in Durango and also helped negotiate the joint proposal. Hartline works as the training and development director with Open Sky Wilderness Therapy, and Beach is executive director of Music in the Mountains.

If the tax increases, 14% of its revenue would support arts and cultural organizations, facilities and events. The Durango Creative District and Music in the Mountains could benefit from lodgers tax revenue, depending on how Durango City Council distributes it, according to Bill Carver.

The ballot measure also allocates 55% of the lodgers tax revenue for sustainable tourism marketing and 20% for city transit. Each year, City Council would allocate the remaining 11% for any of the above uses, or tourism impacts, depending on the city’s needs at the time.

Almost all of the contributions, about 15 of 22, came from people who hold leadership positions in the Durango business community.

The second-highest donation, $750, was given by Dave Woodruff, president of the Durango chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association.

Jenny Roberts gave the third-highest contribution, $600. Roberts is the Hampton Inn manager and volunteer chairwoman of the Durango Area Hotel and Lodging Association, which helped create the tax increase proposal.

Other donors included: Jeff Susor, executive director of the Powerhouse Science Center; Kirk Komick, manager of the Rochester Hotel; and Tori Ossola, manager of the Strater Hotel.

The Tax Locals Don’t Pay committee spent about $7,590 between March 17 and Friday. Most of that spending, $6,359, went to advertising costs, such as yard signs, The Durango Herald advertising, postage and a retainer for Tosch & Associates Inc. The rest was used for legal counsel and funding the Sustainable Tourism white paper.

smullane@durangoherald.com

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story listed the incorrect white paper funded by The Tax Locals Don’t Pay committee.

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