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Columbia Falls resort tax goes into effect

| October 1, 2021 7:00 AM

People will pay a little more for some items as the city of Columbia Falls' 3 percent resort tax goes into effect on Friday, Oct. 1.

The tax was supposed to be implemented in 2020, but the City Council delayed it last year due to the uncertainty of the pandemic and its impacts on the economy at the time.

Voters passed the tax in June 2020 by a vote of 768-670.

The tax only applies to certain goods and services and only those in the city limits.

The tax does not apply to groceries, with the exception of candy and soda. It does not tax medicine, hardware supplies, auto parts, cars and trucks, motor oil, gasoline, newspapers, vehicles, furniture, dishes and the like.

It centers on the service industry, such as restaurant meals, alcohol, vacation rentals, hotels and motels, car and truck rentals and items known as “luxuries,” under the proposed law.

For example, the law does not tax most new and used books, but it does tax books “of local interest,” such as a photo book of Glacier Park.

The tax is seen as a way to capture visitor revenue without the tax burden on property owners. In fact, the tax will come with a property tax rebate in the coming years.

Fifty-five percent of the money raised by the tax is slated for public safety, 25% for a property tax rebate for city property owners, 14% toward public infrastructure, 5% back to businesses for the cost of collecting the tax, and 1% toward city administration.

The tax will be in effect for 20 years.

Conservative estimates are the resort tax will raise about $450,000 a year initially. The city is looking at having to hire at least two full-time firefighters in the near future, as the city population continues to grow and more people visit the area.

It will also benefit the police department in the future, which responded to more than 1,200 calls last month alone.

Several other cities have a resort tax. Whitefish has one, as does Red Lodge.