C-Falls moves ahead with 3% resort tax proposal

Print Article

Nucleus Avenue in Columbia Falls at night. Short-term vacation rentals are one of the items that would be taxed under the resort tax.

The Columbia Falls City Council on Monday approved a draft version of a 3 percent resort tax that will go voters later this spring.

Fifty-five percent of the funds raised by the tax are slated for public safety, 25 percent toward a property tax rebate for city property owners, 14 percent toward public infrastructure, 5 percent back to businesses for the cost of collecting the tax, and 1 percent toward city administration.

Council had a lengthy discussion on the tax. Resident and Columbia Falls businessman Dave Petersen, who was on the committee that worked on the tax, made the case for a 30 percent rebate for property owners, claiming it would make it easier to pass. He noted the recent school bond passed by a slim margin and he is worried taxpayers might not go for the resort tax.

But in the end, council noted the rebate for city property owners was just that — a rebate. It wasn’t designed to be property tax relief, it was meant to offset the cost of the tax to city property owners.

If approved, the resort tax would be in effect for 20 years.

Conservative estimates are the tax initially would raise about $450,000 annually. The city expects to hire at least two full-time firefighters in the near future as it continues to grow, and its volunteer ranks are strained by the sheer number of calls.

Mayor Don Barnhart noted the current city budget simply doesn’t have the funds to pay for a fire department. The other option would be to float a public safety levy to voters. But to raise the same amount of money would cost city homeowners more than $200 a year.

The resort tax is seen as a way to capture tourist and visitor revenue without the tax burden on property owners. During the tourist season, the fire and police departments are very busy. The fire department alone responded to more than 300 calls last year — an all-time high.

The tax is notable in what it does and doesn’t tax. The tax does not apply to groceries, with the exception of candy and soda. It does not tax medicine, hardware supplies, auto parts, motor oil, gasoline, newspapers, furniture, dishes and similar necessities.

It really centers on the service industry, alcohol, vacation rentals and the like, known as luxuries, under the proposed law.

For example, if a person eats at a restaurant, the meal is taxed, or rents a car or ATV, the rental is taxed.

“We really tried to focus [the tax] on people driving through town,” council member Jenny Lovering said.

Luxuries also include supermarket “non-food” items (though there are some exceptions such as diapers), cigarettes and other tobacco products, including vaping products.

A public hearing on the measure is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 21 at Columbia Falls City Hall.

After the hearing, the council likely will approve the final language for the tax, much of which is already dictated by state law. Only city residents will have a vote on the proposed tax.

Print Article

Read More Local News

Republicans host candidate forum for state candidates

February 19, 2020 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake The Flathead County Republicans will host a candidate forum for GOP Secretary of State and Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at the Red Lion Hotel in Kalis...


Read More

National Boy Scouts bankruptcy should not impact local scouting

February 19, 2020 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake The Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday as it faces a wave of lawsuits over sexual-abuse allegations, but this will not affect the operations of the Boy Scouts’ Montana Co...


Read More

Local nonprofits among specialty plates to be cut

February 19, 2020 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake A total of 85 specialty Montana license plates are on the chopping block because of new state legislation, including multiple specialty plates specific to the Flathead Valley. Starting in January, ...


Read More

Kalispell Middle School tightens mobile device policy

February 19, 2020 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake The absence of mobile phones and smartwatches in the hallways of Kalispell Middle School will become a regular sight beginning in March as the school pilots a change to its electronic device policy. ...


Read More

Contact Us

(406) 755-7000
727 East Idaho
Kalispell, MT 59901

©2020 Daily Inter Lake Terms of Use Privacy Policy