Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Davis, Feury retain seats on Council, while voters approve extension for resort tax

Staff Report | November 10, 2021 1:00 AM

Whitefish council incumbents Ben Davis and Andy Feury have retained their positions, while newcomer Giuseppe Caltabiano earned the third spot on Council during last week’s election.

Voters also resoundingly approved an extension of the city’s 3% resort tax to 2045.

Davis earned 1,644 votes and Feury tallied 1,585 votes in the municipal election, according to results from the Flathead County Election Department, in the crowded race that included nine candidates on the ballot.

This will be Davis’ first full term on Council after being appointed to an open seat in spring 2020.

Feury has already served 22 years on both Council and as mayor.

Caltabiano narrowly beat out fellow candidate Kristen Riter, earning 970 votes, while Riter tallied 950.

Caltabiano is a partner and president of NXGEN International, a provider of credit card processing and payment service solutions.

Current Councilor Ryan Hennen chose not to seek re-election.

In the Council race, Phil Boland earned 858 votes, Vincent Dell’Omo had 348, Terry Petersen had 259 and Judy Hessellund 244.

Candidate Mark Owens, who dropped out of the race though his name still appeared on the ballot, garnered 96 votes. There were 32 write-in votes.

On the resort tax, votes for the measure totaled 2,204 compared to the 263 votes against. The tax had been set to expire in 2025, but that was pushed out another 20 years.

The tax has generated more than $46 million to pay for streets, parks, and a conservation easement while also providing about $15 million in property tax relief back to homeowners since it began in 1996.

Currently, 1% of the tax goes to the Haskill Basin Conservation Easement and property tax relief. Once the easement is paid off in 2025 funds raised by that portion of the tax will be diverted to the rest of the areas where the funds are allocated.

Also in 2025, a shift in how the funds are allocated will go into effect. Funds for streets, storm sewers and sidewalks would drop from 65% to 58%, and funds for bicycle paths and parks would increase from 5% to 10%.

A new addition will also set aside 2% of collections for maintenance of the Whitefish Trail.

The property tax relief will stay the same at 25% and the administration fee of 5% that remains with the businesses that collect the tax will also stay the same.

Whitefish’s resort tax was first approved by city voters in 1995 and was implemented in February 1996. In November 2004, voters approved an extension of the tax for an additional 20 years through January 2025.

In April 2015 voters approved increasing the resort tax rate from 2% to 3% to cover the cost of acquiring the Haskill Basin Conservation Easement to protect the city’s drinking water source.