Englewood voters could raise taxes on motel stays, short-term rentals

Other ballot question would let Englewood provide Wi-Fi service in city facilities

Ellis Arnold
earnold@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 10/14/20

Englewood voters will have their say on two citywide ballot questions in the Nov. 3 election: one that seeks to raise taxes on lodging — including short-term rentals — and another that would let …

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Englewood voters could raise taxes on motel stays, short-term rentals

Other ballot question would let Englewood provide Wi-Fi service in city facilities

Posted

Englewood voters will have their say on two citywide ballot questions in the Nov. 3 election: one that seeks to raise taxes on lodging — including short-term rentals — and another that would let Englewood provide Wi-Fi service in city facilities.

The first question would increase Englewood’s lodging tax from 2% to 5%. That applies to hotels, motels, and short-term rentals such as rooms booked through Airbnb and Vrbo.

Englewood City Council approved ordinances to allow and regulate short-term rentals in February.

Some of the most visible locations for lodging in the city are the handful of motels along South Broadway. In Englewood, a city that sits in a part of metro Denver where homelessness is often visible, a lodging tax increase will likely affect people experiencing homelessness — or those who sit on the cusp of it — who stay in motels for extended periods.

At the Lucky U Motel on Broadway, a room for a night without tax costs about $70 and a $10 deposit, a staff member said on Oct. 9 by phone. A 3% tax increase at that motel would total about $2 per night. That motel offers a weekly rate of $397 including Englewood’s current tax, according to the staff member. The Holiday and Wright motels in Englewood offer similar rates.

The tax also applies to short-term rentals such as those facilitated through Airbnb and similar websites unless the rental period is for 30 days or more, according to Chris Harguth, a spokesman for the city.

The text of the ballot question says Englewood’s tax revenue would increase by up to $100,000 in the following fiscal year. Englewood’s spending in 2019 totaled $108 million, according to the Arapahoe County analysis of this year’s ballot proposals.

The ballot question’s text also mentions the amount that would be raised annually in the future, but that refers to the larger amount of anticipated revenue that the city would raise in coming years based on the same proposed tax rate of 5%.

“The city would not be able to increase the tax rate higher than 5% without another vote of the people,” Harguth said.

Wireless service

A second ballot question effectively asks voters to allow Englewood to provide Wi-Fi service in city facilities, according to Harguth.

In 2005, the Colorado state legislature passed Senate Bill 05-152, which required a vote of municipal residents if a city wanted to become a broadband service provider. With the OK from voters, municipalities can provide broadband service directly or through a partnership with a private vendor, according to a fact sheet linked on Englewood’s web page about this year’s ballot question.

More than 100 municipalities had given their city or town approval to provide broadband service as of fall 2019, according to that fact sheet.

This ballot question asks Englewood voters to authorize — but not require — the city to provide high-speed internet service, telecommunication services or cable television services as defined by Colorado law. The city could then provide service to residents, businesses, schools, libraries, nonprofit entities and other users, according to the city’s website.

In 2013, voters in nearby Centennial chose to opt out of the state law, allowing that city to create a system of underground fiber-optic cable that internet-service providers and other entities connect to. For example, Canada-based internet provider Ting offers super-fast internet by building its own local fiber network by connecting to Centennial’s fiber system.

Although Englewood’s website says, “Passage of this measure would allow the city to explore a variety of options to make broadband service available to residents, students, visitors, nonprofit organizations, schools and businesses,” Englewood doesn’t intend to take a step similar to Centennial’s — at least not now.

Englewood submitted the ballot question to its voters to allow it to provide Wi-Fi service in city facilities, Harguth said.

“At this time, the city is not seeking to provide broadband services or to partner with private entities to provide broadband services,” Harguth added.

Centennial’s project came with a steep price tag: Centennial’s Fiber Master Plan, which guided that city’s project, was projected to cost about $5.7 million.

Englewood’s information technology staff is working on a multiyear project to install fiber-optic cable from the Englewood Civic Center to other city buildings, Harguth said.

Approval of the Englewood ballot question would not prevent any private business, including existing broadband providers, from initiating or continuing to provide broadband or other internet services, according to the city’s website. 

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