The resort tax in Whitefish will increase from 2 percent to 3 percent on July 1 following a special election in which voters overwhelmingly approved the tax hike to help finance a conservation easement in Haskill Basin.
The resort tax includes lodging, restaurant food and drinks and retail items.
The Whitefish City Council voted in favor of holding the special election in an effort to secure additional funding sources to help acquire a conservation easement on prime land owned by the F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Co. and located beside Whitefish Mountain Resort on Big Mountain, a tract of land vulnerable to pressures of development and the source of 75 percent of the municipal water supply in Whitefish.
In a special election in April, 1,717 voters approved the resort tax increase, with 335 voting against.
The 83.6 percent approval means the revenues generated through Jan. 31, 2025 – the date when the existing resort tax expires and goes back to Whitefish residents for a vote – will be used to fund the remaining $8 million needed for the conservation easement. Twenty-five percent of the increase will be rebated to taxpayers in a similar fashion to how the current percentage works.
If Whitefish were to lose access to Haskill Basin water, it would force the alternative of pumping and treating water from Whitefish Lake, costing an additional $500,000 annually, according to Whitefish Mayor John Muhlfeld.
Stoltze values the land at $20.6 million, but the company has offered to sell it for $17 million. Earlier this year, the project received a funding boost from the U.S. Forest Service, which awarded the Haskill Basin Watershed Project $7 million in Legacy Project funding. An additional $2 million will come from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Program, and the resort tax increase will cover the balance.
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