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Bonners Ferry to vote on local option tax

by EMILY BONSANT
Hagadone News Network | April 20, 2023 1:00 AM

BONNERS FERRY — At the Tuesday, May 16, election, Bonners Ferry residents will hit the polls to vote for a local option tax to fund the Bonners Ferry police department, fire department, street crews and snow removal.

The LOT, which would add 1% to taxable goods, would be for 10 years and would fund capital operation expenses for the three departments as well as property tax relief.

Since the 1950s, the city transferred 5% of its gross sales in enterprise funds to the city general fund. This excluded garbage, which is an enterprise fund.

Due to a 2017 Idaho Supreme Court case ruling which changed how cities can fund their general budget, Bonners Ferry officials said the city now has a general budget shortfall of approximately $480,000. This shortfall will be ongoing, as annually the city will have to find ways to cover the general budget each year or make cuts equaling that amount, city officials said.

A local option tax is a tax on taxable goods within a jurisdiction used for funding. The city is running a LOT of 1% local on taxable goods to cover the shortfall. The tax would be paid by anyone shopping in the Bonners Ferry instead of exclusively city property owners.

The general fund includes, the police and fire departments, streets, parks, Bonners Ferry Municipal Pool, the Mirror Lake Golf Course and the visitor center. Taxes collected by the LOT will only go to the police and fire departments and toward city streets.

The 1% local option tax will only be applied to sales in Bonners Ferry up to $1,000.

Helping spread the word on the LOT is Bonners Ferry resident Fay Almond, who has been passing out informational flyers on the ballot measure. She said after door knocking that she is surprised how many city residents she’s met who are unaware of the LOT being on the ballot on May 16.

Bonners Ferry City Administrator Lisa Ailport said that the city does not endorse the flyer, but that Almond did confirm that the information present was correct before distributing.

“We are a lean staff and appreciate (her efforts),” she said.

On April 4, the council approved mailers to be sent to city residents that provide information on the proposed LOT. City staff said as per Idaho Code the city could not take a side of support or opposition to the LOT, rather mailers should be used to provide facts to the city voters.

The cost of the mailers is not to exceed $1,500.

Ailport said city residents would receive the mailers and not county residents, due to only city residents being able to vote on the LOT.

City staff and council members previously said there is no data to know what revenues will be brought in from the LOT. Due to the ongoing shortfall, the city is in the process of selling property. Additionally, Boundary County has taken on the annual expense of the city pool at $80,000 for the 2023 season.

Several cities in Idaho have a LOT. In Bonner County, Sandpoint and Ponderay have 1% LOTs to fund parks and recreation projects.

More information on the LOT is available at the city's website.