Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hailey decides to fund street repairs

County roads, air service and sewer facility included in discussion

Express Staff Writer

The Hailey City Council on Monday weighed the needs for sewer services, road improvements and increased commercial air service at Friedman Memorial Airport.

     The council voted unanimously to join Blaine County to put together a ballot proposal for a unified temporary tax levy that would fund road improvements in both Hailey and the county.

     “Since the economic downturn, it has been impossible to add to the capital fund,” said Hailey Mayor Fritz Haemmerle. “We have roads to repair and the county is going in the right direction.”

     The county had previously announced it would pursue a special tax levy for road repairs.

     The council agreed to write a letter to the county in support of a 1 percent tax levy increase for two years that would provide Hailey with $352,000 in funding to fix its streets.

     The levy, if approved by voters, would cost Hailey property owners $100 per $100,000 of property valuation for two years.

     A homeowner’s exemption allows 50 percent of a home’s assessed value to be removed from the tax calculation, for up to an $81,000 total exemption.  Haemmerle expressed concern about “going to the well” for public funding too often in light of a $4 million bond issue the city plans to present to Hailey voters on a ballot in May. The city would use the proceeds to build a bio-solids facility at the city’s sewer plant near the Woodside subdivision.

     “The public can become angry,” said Haemmerle.

     The bio-solids facility bond would cost Hailey property owners $86 per year for 20 years. The bond would pass with a simple majority vote of Hailey residents.

     The Hailey City Council also voted to throw its support behind a ballot measure for a five-year, 1 percent local-option sales tax increase on lodging and rental cars in Hailey to fund minimum revenue guarantees for air carriers. The MRGs would be used to help increase the number of commercial airline flights into Hailey’s Friedman Memorial Airport.

     The LOT increase would have to be approved by 60 percent of Hailey voters on the November ballot to succeed.

     An identical bond initiative in Hailey failed last November by only 38 votes out of a total of 3,175 votes.

     Haemmerle said if the effort is unsuccessful this year, he would not favor allowing a third attempt to proceed with another ballot initiative.

     Councilwoman Martha Burke said that because the proposed LOT increase would only pertain to hotels and rental cars, it will not be Hailey voters who will pay for it.

     “This is specifically targeted toward guests in our community,” Burke said.

Tony Evans:



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