Littleton leaders see positive reception to lodging tax, charter amendment

Council continues to mull ballot questions ahead of November election

Robert Tann
rtann@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/20/22

A majority of likely voters surveyed in Littleton said they would support paying a new lodging tax, as well as amending the city's charter, in the Nov. 8 election, according to a survey from a city-hired consultant. 

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Littleton leaders see positive reception to lodging tax, charter amendment

Council continues to mull ballot questions ahead of November election

Posted

A majority of likely voters surveyed in Littleton said they would support paying a new lodging tax, as well as giving the city more bidding power for projects, in the Nov. 8 election according to a survey from a city-hired consultant. 

The findings, presented to city council during a study session July 19, come as Littleton's leaders mull what questions should appear on November's ballot, a decision that will be made in August. 

The survey, conducted by Vitale and Associates — a Denver-based consulting firm — gauged the opinions of 302 registered voters in the city, ranging in age, gender, income and political affiliation.

Todd Vitale, principal and founder of  Vitale and Associates, stressed that polling is just a "snapshot in time" and given the economic and social volatility of the country, sentiments could change. 

"We have a lot of time between now and Election Day," Vitale said. 

Along with finding strong support for the potential ballot issues, the survey suggests that city leaders appear to be in good graces with residents. 

According to the survey, 68% approve of the job the city's government is doing, 14% disapprove and 17% did not answer. A majority of respondents also support the direction of the city, with 52% saying the city is going in the right direction, 24% saying it is on the wrong track and 24% unsure. 

Vitale said the high marks for city governance could mean a receptive voter base to new ballot questions, one of which would ask voters to increase city taxes for the second time in just over a year.

A 5% lodging tax for Littleton's five hotels and two motels would be paid by patrons and could raise $1 million annually to be funneled into the city's arts, culture and tourism programs. 

Specifically, money would go toward upkeep of what staff have called "the big four" cultural centers — the Littleton Museum, Bemis Library, the Town Hall Arts Center and the Hudson Gardens & Event Center; grants for Littleton-based arts and culture groups, and funding for city marketing campaigns. 

The consultant's survey found that 64% would vote for a 5% lodging tax while 31% said they wouldn't and 5% said they were undecided. It would be the second time the city asked voters to approve a lodging tax, the first being in 2013 when voters rejected a 3% tax by a near 2-to-1 margin.

A majority of council members have expressed support for the lodging tax.

"I look at it as an investment in the city's future going forward," said Kelly Milliman, councilmember for Littleton's District 4. "Bringing these tourism dollars in order to invest back into the community to maintain these gems."

A question on voters' appetite for amending the city charter to allow the city to pay higher bids for capital projects showed a slightly smaller margin of support, but likely voters still said they would approve it. 

Currently, Littleton is one of only four cities in Colorado that must accept the lowest bid price, without regard for quality, when purchasing supplies, equipment and other assets for needed city improvements.

The city is currently considering asking voters to move that provision to the city code where it can be amended by a council vote.

A majority of voters, 59%, said they would either support amending the charter or allowing the city to accept higher bids while keeping the provision in the code. A minority, 21%, were opposed and 20% were undecided. 

Council supported moving forward with draft language for both the lodging tax and charter amendment as well as a question on a Downtown Development Authority, which did not appear in the survey results. 

Those issues will have a second reading and public comment Aug. 16. 

City of Littleton, Election 2022, lodging tax, city charter, downtown development authority

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