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Will Wood River Valley cities raise money for housing through a resort tax? Voters could decide

Big Wood River
Thomas Hawk
Flickr Creative Commons

The city of Ketchum is trying again to raise money for housing through its resort tax after a ballot measure last year failed. This spring, voters there could be joined by those in Sun Valley and Hailey in considering a similar measure.

The new proposal across the three cities is to redirect half of a 1% resort tax that raises funds for commercial air service to the Friedman Memorial Airport. Half of those funds would go toward housing, instead.

This week, the Ketchum City Council approved its ballot language for the May election and the Sun Valley and Hailey councils will hold second readings on their ordinances next week.

The ballot language each city chooses could look slightly distinct. Additionally, the air service tax is applied differently in each city. For example, Hailey’s includes a 1% tax on lodging and car rentals, while Ketchum’s also extends to retail, except for groceries, liquor and building materials.

If the measure were to get the 60% of voter support needed, it could raise about $80,000 for housing in the city of Hailey annually, said city administrator Lisa Horowitz.

“It’s not enough, say, to buy a house tomorrow, but it could be seed money,” she said.

The funds will go toward housing for people who live and work in Hailey, but exactly what they’ll support will be up to residents, Horowitz said.

Across the three cities, the measure could raise around $2 million for housing in the valley based on how much the air service tax raised in recent years.

Ketchum’s proposal last year would’ve raised the regular local option tax – which supports transportation and emergency medical services – and would have made that pool available for spending on housing. It got about 53% of voter approval but failed to pass.

This year’s initiative, which Ketchum developed after doing surveys and focus groups, does not raise the tax rate but diverts some of the specific air service tax to housing.

Horowitz said, like Ketchum, the city of Hailey is recognizing a need for a dedicated revenue stream for housing as costs go up.

While Hailey’s air service tax is not expiring at the end of this year, Ketchum’s and Sun Valley’s are. That means if this measure doesn’t pass in those two cities, the air service revenue could take a big hit.

Cities need to submit ballot language to the county by the end of March and the election is May 16.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.

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