Poison city council votes on resort tax
POLSON – The Polson City Council meeting was full of people waiting to hear how the council would vote on the resort tax and a proposed mill levy on Monday, Aug. 1.
For over a year, the possibility of running a resort tax was debated where local luxury items would be taxed 3 percent for the next 20 years during the summer months. The resort tax was proposed as a way to bring in revenue to fix city roads.
Mayor Heather Knutson said she would vote “yes” for the luxury tax so that the issue could be put on an election ballot and decided by the people.
She said she listened to many opinions concerning the issue of a resort tax and she felt the overall public opinion was split 50/50.
The council continued to listen to public comment at the meeting and debate the issue publicly. Several concerns were discussed including the confusion over what exactly constitutes as a luxury item. It was noted that a list of items would be made available if needed, but in general, the tax would be on almost everything but non-prepared food.
The tax would not apply to Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal members. Several Polson council members said taxing people separately would create an unhealthy division between tribal and non-tribal people.
Several area business people said that adding a resort tax would also create a burden on small businesses.
Mark Johnston was impressed with the council’s effort to hear public comment, but he said the project needs more research and development. He said people needed to know exactly how the money would be spent on roadwork.
Polson resident Matt O’Neill also said he needs more clarification about how much money the tax would raise and how the money would be used.
County Commissioner Bill Barron was at the meeting with his wife, business owner Tali Barron. He said the tax was designed to bring in revenue from people in a higher income bracket with tax on luxury items, but because luxury items include just about everything, the tax would affect everyone.
“This is going to hit low-income people pretty hard,” he said.
Tali Barron said the luxury tax would devastate the Cherry Festival. “How do you collect tax on little vendors,” she said.
Other people stated that they would continue to support local businesses and buy locally, no matter which way the vote went.
After hearing public comments, considering stacks of research papers, and much thought, the council voted against putting the resort tax on the ballot.
With the resort tax failure, the council voted on another agenda item that would raise revenue for road repairs. The issue concerned raising the current mill levy limit to increase property taxes. A home worth about $100,000 would see an additional tax each year of $74.96.
If the council voted to approve the increased levy, the issue would be decided by voters. It was stated that the increase in levy mills would raise $500,000 for road maintenance and repair, which didn’t include reconstructing every street.
Again, people wanted an exact outline of the project and how the money would be spent, and after hearing public comment, the council voted not to approve the increased mill levy.
It was stated that the council will look at other options, possibly develop a guidance map for needed road improvements, and explore the issue further.
In other news, Jessie Vargas is leading a project to expand the Polson Skate Park. He presented the project to the council and said fundraising projects are underway. The project is estimated to cost $220,000. A skate jam will be held on Aug. 20 at noon. T-shirts will be sold for $20 and jerseys for $25.
He said the project is open to donations and sponsors. More information can be found at polsonskatepark.com. Vargas can be reached at 406-858-0549.