A resort tax primer
Since 1996, Whitefish has been generating voter-approved resort tax funds to rebuild our streets, provide property tax relief to Whitefish property owners, and provide modest funding for our pedestrian/bike paths and parks capital improvements. Since 2016, additional property tax relief funds and funds to protect the source and quality of our drinking water, Haskill Basin, have been generated. These funds come from our voter-approved resort tax on bar and restaurant sales, lodging sales and non-essential retail goods sales.
The resort tax was first approved for a 20-year term by Whitefish voters on Nov. 7, 1995, with the term to begin Jan. 1, 1996. At the Nov. 2, 2004 city election, the voters approved an extension of the resort tax until Jan. 31, 2025. At a special election on April 28, 2015, 84% of voters elected to increase the resort tax from 2% to 3% for additional property tax relief and to fund the purchase of the Haskill Basin Conservation Easement to protect and preserve the city municipal water supply and historical recreational use of these lands.
Since its inception, resort tax collections and expenditures have been monitored by the Resort Tax Monitoring Committee, whose members are appointed by the Whitefish City Council. The committee is made up of representatives of bar and restaurant businesses, a retail business, lodging businesses, a city council representative, and the community at large. The committee advises the city on the expenditure of resort tax funds. The committee meets the third Wednesday of each month at 7:05 a.m. The public is welcome to attend, and meeting agendas are posted monthly at cityofwhitefish.org.
The resort tax has generated more than $14 million in property tax relief that has been provided to Whitefish property owners since 1996. The resort tax has funded $26.6 million in street improvement projects, most recently State Park Road. The resort tax has provided more than $2 million in many park improvements including tennis courts and pickleball courts, significant WAG Dog Park improvements and pedestrian bicycle path improvements.
In early November 2021, Whitefish voters will be asked to renew the resort tax. In order to be consistent with the original intent of the resort tax, collections are proposed to continue to primarily fund street reconstruction and property tax relief. In addition, an increase in funding for our parks, bicycle/pedestrian paths and their maintenance is proposed, as well as a small allocation of funds for maintenance of the Whitefish Trail, the easements for which are held by the City of Whitefish.
The Whitefish Resort Tax Monitoring Committee includes Chair Doug Reed, Vice Chair Chris Schustrom, Secretary Julia Olivares, City Council Representative Andy Feury, Brian Averill, Ken Stein and Trek Stephens.