The Gunstock Ski Area is not a “company,” although that is what the chair of the Gunstock Area Commission has repeatedly called it in public meetings. Gunstock is a large property owned by Belknap County and, thus, its taxpayers.
The first question one must ask when confronted with a proposal for the government to do something or to engage in some activity is: Is this a proper role for government, or is it best left to the private sector?
Our country and State were both founded on the bedrock principle of limited government. Thus, our state motto of Live Free or Die appears on our license plates and in many other places in our State. Of course, the full quote from General Stark is “Live Free or Die- Death is not the worst of evils.” The obvious worst of evils is the ever-increasing expansion of government activities into every nook and cranny of our lives.
Gunstock is a perfect example of the truism of our state motto. It likely started with the best intentions but has evolved into an out-of-control commercial business that directly competes with the private sector, whether other ski operations or restaurants and bars, while being subsidized by the taxpayers of Belknap County and the town of Gilford.
Thus, for example, in addition to a ridiculously low real estate tax rate of less than $7,000 per year, all Gunstock bonds for what it calls “capital projects” and borrowings are done in the name of Belknap County, which pledges the full faith and credit of the county and its taxpayers for that purpose.
A private business would not have such a luxury. Gunstock, a gift from the State, cannot legally be sold, and it should not be sold. But consider an alternative scenario. The Gunstock Area Commission could lease the Gunstock property and its entire operation to a commercial ski resort operator, much as has done with the Sunapee Ski Area (property owned by the State), with the result that the new operator would have to pay the total amount of taxes based on the actual value of the property in addition to paying the county rent- typically a minimum base rent and a percentage of gross revenues over the base.
Thus, the county, the town of Gilford, and the local school board would benefit from the increased revenues while getting the government out of competing with private enterprises where it had no business of being in the first place.
And the new operator would, naturally, have to “purchase” the new lease and assume the obligation to pay off the existing Gunstock bonds that clog the liability portion of the balance sheet of the county.
And, finally, if this scenario were actually implemented, if the private operator determined to pay performance bonuses to certain of its personnel, it could do so using its own money and not money actually belonging to the taxpayers of the county.
I have a dream!