Local option sales tax may be in Kalispell's future


KALISPELL, Mont. - Montana is one of five states without a sales tax, but Kalispell is considering one.

Stacey Riggs owns Alpine Lighting in Kalispell. She admits that she doesn't want another tax.

"An additional tax -- I'd immediately say no, unless they are actually going to eliminate property taxes or completely revise them to a much lower rate. That would be the only way I could see having a sales tax," said Stacey Riggs.

An article in Daily Finance indicates Montanans pay a fairly high income tax, which offsets not having a sales tax. But sometimes a sales tax could be beneficial -- for example, Whitefish's resort tax.

"Whitefish used to have a real bad problem with potholes and that's a big reason why the people passed it," said Whitefish City Manager Chuck Stearns.

Whitefish's tax has a 20-year term and will expire in 2025.

From that tax, 65 percent of the money goes toward repairing streets and infrastructure, 5 percent toward bike path and park improvements, and in return Whitefish residents get a 25 percent reduction in property taxes.

"If we didn't have it, it's quite likely that people's taxes would be higher and they like sharing the tax burden with visitors and tourists," said Stearns.

But Whitefish is smaller and makes the cut-off for a resort tax, which is a population under 5,500. Since Kalispell is larger, it has to request a local option tax with the state legislature.

"There's a big difference between Kalispell and Whitefish. All the Flathead Valley in its entirety is resort oriented. Whitefish has way more of those resort-oriented type, you know, second homeowners and people visiting that area especially," said Riggs.

For Riggs, more needs to be done before an additional tax is added.

"It can't be a sales tax on our residents where we are already, all of us, paying so much. It would certainly have to be revised across the board," said Riggs.

The city council voted in favor of the legislative priorities Monday night.

Among the list was the local option sales tax. They clarified that it means they are allowed to present to the constituents a proposal for a local option sales tax in Kalispell, and then the constituents can vote to approve it.