Friday, March 24, 2006

Hailey invites LOT discussion

Local option tax proposal goes before council Monday

Express Staff Writer

Hailey residents will have the opportunity Monday to read and comment on a preliminary draft of a proposed local option tax ordinance going before the City Council.

Discussion of the draft ordinance will take place during the public hearing portion of the meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. in City Hall.

The primary purpose of the tax is to help offset the impacts tourists have on essential city services. If approved by a required 60 percent majority of Hailey voters on May 23, the tax would collect money for funding emergency services, parks maintenance and services improvements, road repairs and snow removal, the promotion of Hailey businesses and services and other city improvements. Monies not specifically budgeted by the council would be placed into a municipal property tax relief fund.

The local option tax would yield approximately $326,250 in its first year, an ad-hoc committee appointed by Mayor Susan McBryant in 2005 estimated earlier this year.

The ad-hoc committee's recommendations on which business activities should be taxed and at what percentage rate were used by the city of Hailey as a basis for drafting the preliminary LOT ordinance. As written, the duration of the tax would last for four years.

As recommended by the ad-hoc committee, the city would collect the following taxes if the LOT ordinance is approved by voters:

· A rental vehicle tax of 3 percent.

· A hotel- and motel-room occupancy tax of 3 percent.

· A liquor-by-the-drink tax of 2 percent.

· A restaurant food tax of 1 percent.

The city maintains that enacting the taxes will have a minimal fiscal impact on Hailey residents.

The ad-hoc committee originally considered other sources of tax revenue such as building supplies and retail beer and wine, but in the end rejected them because they were deemed to be too burdensome on Hailey residents.

The City Council on Monday will also discuss an application by Boise-based Erstad Architects for a text amendment to increase the maximum building height in Hailey's business district from 35 feet to 40 feet. The council will also discuss a possible land exchange between the city and private developers that could lead to the connection of north and south portions of River Street.

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