Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Hailey advances LOT ordinance for election

Mayor says tax will help city 'thrive'

Express Staff Writer

A vote by Hailey residents to reject the local option tax during next month's elections wouldn't spell financial disaster for the city, nor would it mean the city couldn't continue to provide essential city services, Hailey Mayor Susan McBryant said at a City Council meeting Monday.

"But I think if it does pass we'll be able to thrive," McBryant said.

The mayor's comments came during the council's discussion of a finalized draft form of a local option tax ordinance. After discussing the draft ordinance at length with Hailey staff and opening the discussion up to the public, the council voted to approve the LOT ordinance as written and place it on the May 23 ballot.

Under the draft LOT ordinance, the city would collect the following taxes:

· 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.

Funds collected under the LOT ordinance would be used to pay for emergency services, parks maintenance and improvements, road repair and snow removal, the marketing of Hailey and other city improvements.

A large portion of Monday night's discussion centered on whether Hailey does qualify as a resort city, as Idaho statute requires for cities to implement a local option tax.

Speakers cited numerous examples of why Hailey does qualify, including a new hotel being built on the north side of town and the Hailey-based theater organization Company of Fools.

For many tourists, Hailey is a destination in itself, McBryant said.

"They spend time in our community and eat in our restaurants," she said.

Also discussed during the meeting was the concern by some that the proposed restaurant tax would have too much of an impact on Hailey residents.

The Hailey Chamber of Commerce's executive director, Jim Spinelli, expressed skepticism with the concern, however, citing the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley as communities that both have LOTs with similar taxes on restaurant food.

"It's been very successful," he said. "There's no locals exemption up there."

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