Bellevue (LOT caption)

A local-option tax could help fund improvements to Bellevue streets, proponents say.

The Bellevue City Council expressed general agreement Monday about further researching the possibility of establishing the town as a “resort city,” a move that would allow city leaders to establish a local-option tax, otherwise known as a “tourist tax.”

“This could help stretch Bellevue citizens’ taxpayer dollars,” said Mayor Ned Burns.

Ketchum, Sun Valley and Hailey charge a local-option tax (or LOT) on a variety of consumer items, including alcohol by the drink, room rentals and car rentals. Establishing resort city status is the first step in creating a LOT, which must pass via a ballot initiative.

Burns provided data on potential revenues the city could receive from a LOT based on room rentals and alcohol. He said if the city’s 75 hotel rooms were rented at a 67.5% occupancy rate for $167.34 per night, this would amount to $3,092,129 in annual revenue. Of that, 93% would be taxable, Burns said—$2,875,679. A 1% LOT on that revenue would bring the city $28,756 per year. A 2% room rental LOT would bring in $57,513 per year.

Burns said taxing liquor by the glass poured in local establishments (an estimated 3,977 bottles per year) would bring the city $3,521 per year.

Councilmembers pointed out that a LOT could help the city pay for upgrades to streets, public works equipment and other costs.

City Councilman Shaun Mahoney said he would like to see city staff research the possibility further and questioned whether it would be a tax on tourists or on locals.

“I am not against it, but 80% of my customers are locals,” Mahoney said.

City Council Chair Kathryn Goldman said the Idaho cities of Driggs and Victor have charged LOTs for more than a decade.

“Both cities get substantial funding for their street budgets from this,” Goldman said.

Staff were instructed to bring the issue back to the City Council for review on Jan. 10. 

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