Friday, October 30, 2009

Hailey voters should back resort sales tax

Hailey voters will be asked in Tuesday's election to approve an extension of the resort cities local-option sales tax for a period of 20 years.

They would be wise to do that.

The LOT, designed as a tax to be paid primarily by visitors, helps offset seasonal spikes in demands on city services caused by influxes of visitors, the heaviest of which occur in the summer and winter.

The tax is 3 percent on rental vehicles and hotel rooms, 2 percent on liquor by the drink, and 1 percent on restaurant food. The tax has been levied in Hailey since 2006 and has generated a total of $1.68 million.

The city has designated the tax for support of emergency services that include police and fire; parks; marketing and visitor information services; town improvements including the library, sidewalks and a town square; public transit and administration.

In concept, the tax is similar to the local-option resort cities taxes levied by the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley. These taxes have helped provide essential services and amenities for residents and visitors for nearly 30 years.

The taxes support nearly half the cities' operations. They have spared property taxpayers an unjust burden for providing services to all visitors and visitor-dependent businesses.

If the local-option sales taxes were not in place, the same level of services could be offered only if property taxes were nearly double their present rate. Otherwise, the cities' quality of life would be vastly different.

Voters shouldn't miss this opportunity to ensure that visitors to Hailey and the Sun Valley area pay a fair share.

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