For the week of January 27, 1999   thru February 2, 1999  

Taxes, lighting highlight Sun Valley Town Hall Meeting


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

The controversial one-percent option tax increase, night-sky preservation and capital-improvement projects were some of the topics for discussion at the city of Sun Valley’s first Town Hall Meeting Wednesday at the Sun Valley Inn Limelight room.

The meeting, according to Mayor Tom Praggastis in his opening remarks, was meant to open a channel of good communication between Sun Valley’s public officials, residents and business owners.

"Communication is a two-way street," he said. "We don’t make good policy unless we know what you (the citizens and business owners) are thinking."

The city’s success is not an accident, he continued, it is planned.

And the communicative channels were opened; the city’s constituents offered opinions, viewpoints and perspectives, and the city officials answered questions and explained current policy.

The option tax, the resort city’s additional tax on retail sales that recently was raised from two to three percent, claimed a majority of the discussion time.

"The option tax was the genesis for this meeting," Praggastis said, referring to the December controversy that was sparked when about a dozen Sun Valley retailers said the tax was placed on the November ballot without adequate notification.

Some residents said the option tax’s exemption on Sun Valley Company’s lift ticket sales and building materials is unfair.

Richard Bray, owner of Ex Libris Bookstore, said he "resents" that the option tax does not exact its power on building materials.

"Because it is difficult to collect the building materials tax, you aren’t," he contended.

Also, some of those in attendance said they thought the option tax’s exemption on lift ticket sales was to appease Sun Valley’s largest business, Sun Valley Company.

Praggastis explained that Sun Valley Company denies its guests the convenience of lift ticket purchases in Sun Valley Village when the city tacks the option tax on top of the purchase price. He said that because Sun Valley Company needs to maintain an equal price on all of its lift ticket sales, the resort ends up compensating for the tax out of its own pockets.

Lift ticket sales were consequently moved to River Run, Praggastis said, where the county does not add additional sales taxes. Not taxing the lift tickets is a tourist-friendly tactic, he explained.

Lighting, also a matter facing the city, was another of the topics discussed.

"This is the year for a lighting ordinance," Sun Valley resident Dr. Steve Pauley said.

Pauley, who said he has been dubbed Dr. Dark by many of Sun Valley’s residents, pointed out that Hailey and Ketchum are currently working out the details of night-sky ordinances intended to preserve the night sky.

The council members said they agreed that something should be done.

Signs, bike paths and lack of lighting were also discussed.

Booths manned by the council members also provided charts, illustrations and general information on capital projects, the option tax, Y2K and budget planning.

 

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