Polson Resort Tax Heads to Voters

By Beacon Staff

POLSON – After listening to 13 minutes of naysayers and discussing among themselves for another 20 minutes, the Polson City Commission voted 4-2 to place a resolution before city voters in November that would impose a surcharge on luxury, non-essential goods sold inside the city limits.

Unlike at a workshop the previous week, no one spoke in favor of Resolution 996, which as written would impose a 3 percent charge on everyone except the Native American population who are exempt because of federal law.

The parameters of the measure – what items will be charged – is yet to be determined, although they must be presented in ballot language 30 days before the Nov. 3 election, according to City Attorney James Raymond.

The surcharge would be imposed for 10 years, with 20 percent of the proceeds returned to city residents as property tax relief. Another 5 percent would be passed along to merchants as an administrative fee.

“I don’t think it’s been researched enough to put this on the ballot,” said Tali Duford, who along with her father owns First Resort downtown. “It’s a good way to turn people away from our community.”

“People will boycott Polson and go elsewhere,” added Mark Evertz. “Put it in and drive business away.”

Commission members in favor of the ordinance continued to stress there was plenty of time before the measure went before voters to iron out potential difficulties, but that wasn’t good enough for Commissioner Elsa Duford, one of two who voted against placing the measure on the ballot.

“They (the public) will not be informed enough in my opinion,” said Duford, who also questioned the fairness of residents paying a year-long tax she believed should be tourist oriented.

Commissioner Bruce Agrella also voted against the measure, while Mayor Lou Marchello abstained because he is a downtown business owner.

Commissioners in favor of the resolution continued to stress that they were not imposing a tax on anyone with a positive vote, but only allowing the community to make the decision.

“We’re literally letting the people decide,” said Jim Sohm. “They have the right to make the decision.”