For the week of July 15 thru July 21, 1998  

Who should support the chamber?

Sun Valley wants Ketchum to step up

Express Staff Writer

Is Sun Valley Road a one-way street?

When it comes to tourists and the local options tax, some Sun Valley City Council members think the street only heads west into Ketchum.

Sun Valley City Council members were hesitant to grant the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of Commerce its request of $245,000--25 percent of the city’s projected local options tax revenue for 1998/99--if Ketchum would not step up and give an equal share of its options tax revenue.

"It’s my perception that there is very little two-way traffic back and forth into Sun Valley where our options tax is collected," said Council member David Wilson.

The chamber requested $310,000 from Ketchum, or 20 percent of that city’s projected local options tax revenue from 1998/99. This number includes a non-cash allotment of $43,512 in rent for the chamber’s Town Square offices and a utility allowance.

The proposed Ketchum budget, however, grants a 3 percent increase in its cash allotment to the chamber. This brings its percentage of options tax contributions to approximately 17 percent of what the chamber predicts will be $1.55 million in option tax returns. The chamber predicts Sun Valley’s options tax returns for 1998/99 at $980,000.

"I’m paying 23 percent of a smaller pie, and they’re paying 17 percent of a larger pie," Wilson said. "How are we going to get the other partner in this up to an equal percentage? I’d like to see parity, and if I don’t see parity, I can’t give you $245,000."

Carol Waller, executive director of the chamber of commerce, told the council that giving back to the community was essential to its prosperity.

"We’re still in catch-up mode," Waller said. "We do want to have you look at this as a reinvestment in the economic development of the community."

The Sun Valley Council ultimately decided to grant the chamber $227,000--approximately 25 percent of its $940,000 in 1997/98 options tax returns--as opposed to granting 25 percent of next year’s expected returns.

"We need to put into the budget based on actual options tax, not an estimate," said Wilson.

Mayor Tom Praggastis also said the chamber’s budget should reflect what they did in the previous year, and not what they will do in the future.

"The chamber’s budget is like a pair of stretch pants," he said. "The budget is relative to what you can raise."

Though the final numbers were somewhat altered from the chamber’s initial request, the 25 percent reinvestment philosophy was still followed by the Sun Valley Council, and members expressed concern that Ketchum would not do the same.

"I’m extremely disappointed that our other partner in this doesn’t buy into this philosophy at all," Wilson said.

Council member Jim Dowen shared these sentiments as well.

"I also feel embarrassed for our sister city if they don’t step up and take their share," Dowen said.

Ketchum Council members are still considering the chamber’s request, which will be formally presented by Waller on July 30.

Council members expressed a mix of concern for the well-being of local businesses but also for the numbers in front of them: So far this fiscal year, the options tax returns for Ketchum have remained flat. Sun Valley has had an 11 percent increase.

Ketchum gave the chamber a 46 percent increase in the 1997/98 fiscal year budget.

"I try to make my decisions based on facts," said Ketchum Council member Chris Potters. "Revenues have been flat, and we did give them a huge increase last year. I support the mayor’s budget."

Ketchum Council member Randy Hall, who has owned the China Pepper restaurant in Ketchum for the past 10 years, said that as a business owner, "I need all the help I can get."

He said he would try to support the chamber.

Council member Sue Noel also said she felt it was fair for Ketchum to pay 25 percent of their options tax to the chamber--but not yet.

"We should gradually bring up the options tax [percentage] until we do obtain 25 percent," Noel said. "I think we should give them what they ask for."


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