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For the week of May 3 through May 9, 2000

Time to change resort cities sales tax law

It’s time for the Idaho Legislature to change the resort cities sales tax law.

Approved in 1978, it shifted the property tax burden from the shoulders of working residents in Sun Valley and Ketchum to the shoulders of visitors who were driving the demand for services.

The need for the tax hasn’t changed. However, the demographics of resort cities have changed. Today the tax benefits the very people it was intended to tax, short-term and seasonal visitors, and penalizes working residents.

The state authorized small resort cities to levy a local sales tax to help meet the extraordinary demands of populations that swelled seasonally. For example, cities like Sun Valley and Ketchum needed emergency services on the level of communities five to 10 times the size of their permanent populations.

That hasn’t changed.

What has changed is that Sun Valley and Ketchum aren’t the only places suffering the extraordinary impacts of tourism.

What has changed is that the number of working residents living in Sun Valley and Ketchum is decreasing each year while the number of seasonal visitors increases. Property values fueled by non-resident investment have forced working residents to live downvalley where homes and rents are cheaper.

Ketchum and Sun Valley are exporting some of the most severe impacts of tourism to downvalley communities—without sending a check or offering any services to help them cope.

Unlike other ski towns, the two cities have done nothing to staunch the southward flow of workers. Ketchum has a paltry 14 units of affordable housing, while Sun Valley has none.

While Ketchum and Sun Valley enjoy excess sewer and water capacity, and great emergency services, Hailey and Bellevue struggle to pay for water, sewer and emergency services to support the population shift.

While Ketchum and Sun Valley run free city buses inside their boundaries, they ignore commuter-clogged Highway 75.

While Ketchum and Sun Valley collect $3.2 million annually in local sales taxes, Hailey and Bellevue can barely make ends meet.

Downvalley residents are being forced to subsidize the economic engines in Ketchum and Sun Valley. Their pockets are picked every day. They pay to commute. They endanger their lives on a substandard highway without any alternative means of transportation. They pay for infrastructure costs that rightfully should fall on Ketchum and Sun Valley.

Lately, Ketchum seems hell-bent on making the problem worse by reducing building densities downtown and encouraging sprawl.

Something’s got to give.

Local leaders should work to convince the Idaho Legislature to allow Hailey, Bellevue and Blaine County to share in local sales tax revenues to offset the extraordinary impacts of tourism.


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