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DEFINITIONS NEEDED 5-20-15 LMS

When the controversy over the proposed Whitewater Kayak Park first began and concerns over the city expending any tax dollars on the project arose the city addressed the concerns by signing an agreement with Whitewater Park organizers that stated, “The city will not be responsible for any funding for the project.”

Because the Local Option Tax Commission has since approved funds for the “River Fest” events opponents of the Whitewater Park have insisted that using LOT monies to help finance River Fest events is in fact using city tax dollars to fund the proposed project.

The unresolved question is whether or not LOT monies are actually city funds, since they are not generated by property taxes.

Some members of the Salmon City Council agree that LOT funds are city tax monies and other members do not. Those who don’t agree say that because the revenues do not come from property taxes but instead are generated by a four percent lodging tax on visitors and the LOT ordinance designates how the collected tax revenues are to be spent, the money should not be defined as city tax dollars.

Hoping for a resolution, Mayor Leo Marshall took the question to the Association of Idaho Cities. After a long discussion and detailed description of the LOT vs. City Tax dollars debate, the official answer was, “Talk to your city attorney.”

A week of attempted but missed communications between the mayor and the city attorney went by and on May 20 the question was on the Salmon City Council meeting agenda where City Attorney Fred Snook was informed, for the first time, it is up to him to settle the question. Various opinions were shared.

Councilman Jim Baker said that two years ago when the city funds vs. LOT funds question was first raised he didn’t think LOT funds were city funds. After further thought he now believes that because the collected LOT funds are included in the city budget and the LOT Commission recommendations for expenditures are approved by the City Council, that approval brings the money closer to being his interpretation of actual city funds. He said, “I am of the opinion that a court would determine LOT monies are city funds.”

Councilman Jim Bockelman feels the key is the phrase “city tax dollars vs. funds.” He agrees that is a very fine line. Bockelman said city residents are not paying the lodging tax therefore the revenues are not coming from city tax dollars. He quoted the city/Whitewater Association agreement language that states “The city will not be responsible for any funding for the project.”

Referring to recent letters to the editor he said, “The rub here is we have given LOT dollars to the Whitewater Association for River Fest. They equate River Fest with ‘the project.’” He said the commission is giving money to a special event just as it gives money to the Arts Council. He said the commission doesn’t tell the fund raising organization how to spend the money it raises.

Attorney Snook said since the LOT is comparatively new to Idaho he will research any court rulings or legal precedents that may have occurred in this state or surrounding states and report his findings to the council.








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