Star Valley Council Implements Rental Property Tax

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After weeks of contested discussion and two failed readings, an ordinance enacting a 2-percent sales tax on residential rental property squeaked by with a 4-3 vote of the Star Valley Town Council.

The ordinance will take effect on Jan. 1, 2008.

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Star Valley councilors draw numbered terms from a hat. Three pieces of paper had a "2" on it (for a two-year term) and three had a "4" on it (for a four-year term.)

Vice-mayor Randy White and councilors Mary Ann Kotelnicki and Art Lloyd voted against the ordinance.

In a work-study session prior to Tuesday night's council meeting, several park owners, community members and Lloyd and Kotelnicki expressed their frustration with the ordinance that targets a specific group for taxation.

The revenue generated by the ordinance, an estimated $25,000 each year, will be placed into a law enforcement fund, which was approved by the council at a special meeting last week.

Mayor Chuck Heron estimated it will cost the town about $1.5 million each year to fund a police force.

Lloyd expressed his disapproval with taxing the poorest group in the community -- mobile home and RV park residents -- instead of initiating a widespread fee for everyone.

"If we need the money for a police force, we need to look at another source for raising money across the entire community," he said. "There are better ways and more fair and equitable ways."

Councilor Bill Heath said the town is in a bind because they need to find a source to pay for law enforcement services.

"One of the problems that we have is that we have to establish a revenue source for our police services," he said. "Without a revenue flow, we're not going to be able to afford police protection."

Heron affirmed the need for raising funds within the town.

"We have to have a way to raise money," he said. "This is a statewide tax."

Mobile home park owners have expressed frustration over the last several weeks, regarding the difficulty they will face in levying the new tax in their billing systems.

Star Vale Mobile Home Park owner Ray Lyons said he spent more than eight hours calling government agencies, accountants and mobile home parks in different cities and couldn't find a simple way of applying the tax from anyone.

"It all depends on how the council wants to apply the tax," he said. "Nobody knows how it's done or who pays what."

Town officials erroneously exempted the establishment of a sales tax on residential rental property when they created the first sales tax code after Star Valley was incorporated.

Staggered terms

At Tuesday's meeting, the council also determined the staggered terms of the council members by drawing term lengths from a hat.

Councilors Kotelnicki, Lloyd and Heath will serve two-year terms, until 2008. Heron will also serve a two-year term because voters determined in the town's first election that the mayor's seat would be up for re-election in two years. Each mayoral term after the first election will be four years.

Vice-mayor White and councilors Del Newland and Bill Rappaport will serve four-year terms, until 2010.

In other news, the council also unanimously approved an ordinance supporting an application to the National Flood Insurance Program. The town must be a member of the program before its residents can apply for Federal Flood Insurance.

The council also approved the tentative budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The decision set the upper limits of the budget, which will be discussed in its final version at the next council meeting.

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