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Resort Tax Ds

Resort Tax Ds

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Published by: dennis.swibold3413 on Oct 20, 2008
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06/16/2009

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By CHARLES PULLIAM
SEELEY LAKE. — Residents here will go to the polls Nov. 4 to decide whether totax tourists to help upgrade the town’s water and sewer systems and save the area’streasured lake.Seeping septic tanks and the town’s haphazard water and sewage systems are becoming more of a threat to the lake and area’s water supplies, some residents argue.“Our water systems are outdated and the resort tax will help pay for a replacement,”Gary Pelletier, a member of Seeley Lake’s Community Council. “We’ve reached the breaking point, and since we have thousands of tourists come through here annually thetax will help.”Shadowing the growing problem is the resort town’s increasing population, which isexpected to double over then next 20 years.The resort tax would add a 3 percent increase – the maximum amount the stateallows – to luxury items. An elected board of directors would determine the includeditems if the ballot measure were passed. Lodging, restaurant meals, alcohol and tobaccoare common items tagged with the resort tax in similar Montana cities that have one.“When you look at the numbers, (the tax) is not a devastating amount of money togive up, but when you add the number of tourists who come through here, it really addsup,” Pelletier said.Last November, voters narrowly approved $4 million in upgrades to the water system by passing a 30-year general obligation bond. Without the resort tax, Pelletier saidresidents could see property taxes go up as much as $500 per year to offset the cost of additional upgrades.If the tax passes, Seeley Lake would join Whitefish, West Yellowstone, Red Lodge,St. Regis and Virginia City as the only resort-tax cities in Montana.Whitefish added the tax in the mid-‘90s and Jan Metzmaker served on that’s town’scity council when it passed. She said the tax fetched the city an additional $787,000 in itsfirst year; last year the tax produced $1.7 million.“It’s a great thing for the city and we get a rebate on property taxes,” She said. “It’s been a tremendous success.”Whitefish used the extra funds to provide the town with a makeover, fixingeverything from streets and buildings to parks.Whitefish City Council member Nancy Woodruff said her city’s 2 percent resort taxwas controversial at first but has been accepted. Residents also receive a refund on property taxes, she said.“Businesses were worried that people would stop to shop in other towns nearbywithout the tax,” Woodruff said. “Now, it’s widely supported because we have nicer roadsand a better town infrastructure overall.”In Seeley Lake, the main section of town affected by the struggling water system isthe downtown area, home to roughly 600 residents, Pelletier said.These voters couldn’t afford the hundreds of dollars more per year it would cost toupgrade the systems, he said.“Even though I live outside of the district, I’m a member of this community and Ifeel an obligation to help support the town,” Pelletier said. “It’s a beautiful place to liveand most of the tourists that come through here are accustomed to paying taxes because

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