Thoughts on resort tax, school renovations

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Over the past few months a couple of big ticket items have come up in Columbia Falls. The first is the reconstruction and/or renovation of the cityís two elementary schools.

The second is the prospect of a resort tax to pay for emergency services in the city.

First, the resort tax. As a homeowner in the city, the resort tax makes perfect sense as opposed to a hike in property taxes. The bottomline is more and more people come here each summer and more and more of them either get in trouble or need emergency services of some sort.

In the newspaper business weíre scanner hounds by design and on a busy summer day, itís not unusual for our volunteer fire department to respond to several calls, mostly wrecks.

It puts a strain on volunteers, for sure and itís time we started paying a crew.

A 3 percent resort tax would not only pay for emergency services, it would also provide a property tax rebate.

A resort tax would tax things like beer and restaurant meals, not groceries, so this idea that it will hurt the working poor is folly, unless their primary beverage of choice is Budweiser.

I donít know about your individual situation, but my personal property taxes are rising to the point where theyíre almost as much as my mortgage.

Something has to give and a resort tax, will, at the very least, capture some of the revenue from the 1.2 million folks that pass through town every summer.

So thumbs up to the resort tax.

The school plan is a different kind of heartburn. I get that Glacier Gateway needs a rebuild. Itís old, itís outdated and needs to be torn down.

But the Ruder plan leaves me a bit baffled. We have a private entity, the Boys and Girls Club, that has plans for a $5-plus million facility right next door and yet the Ruder renovation plan doesnít even attempt to integrate the two projects.

And thatís just baffling, because if we embrace a public-private partnership between the two entities I think we can build a facility that serves both needs.

We also have needs for school security at both the junior high and the high school. This plan, in its current form, doesnít seem to address those issues at all.

In addition, we still donít seem to have a firm idea of what to do with Canyon Elementary, a building thatís still in really good shape.

Things could firm up in the next few months, but I have a bad feeling that the school is going to ask for a bond issue that wonít get my support unless it has some significant changes.

Chris Peterson is the editor of the Hungry Horse News.

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