wayne olsen


Mackay Mayor Wayne Olsen was busy Wednesday talking with Mackay business owners and officials at the Idaho State Tax Commission after voters in the community approved a measure allowing the collection of a 3 percent resort tax.

On Tuesday, May 21, a majority of Mackay voters who live in the city limits said yes to a ballot question that authorized city officials to impose the new tax on lodging, meals served in restaurants, liquor sold by the drink and the rental of recreational equipment. The items on the list are commonly purchased by visitors, Olsen said. Collection of the tax will start as soon as possible, Olsen said.

“We don’t want to miss out on this summer tourist season,” the mayor said.

A total of 111 ballots were cast Tuesday, according to the Custer County Clerk’s Office. There were 283 registered voters in Mackay on Election Day and one person registered to vote at the polls, meaning 39.1 percent of voters turned out. The number of votes in favor of the plan totaled 63.9 percent. The tax required support from at least 60 percent of voters in order to take effect. It will be in place for 10 years and can be renewed.

Olsen said he was a little surprised at the low voter turnout. The results didn’t surprise him though.

“I’m pleased with the results,” Olsen said. “I’m not surprised it passed.”

Olsen and City Council members conducted three public meetings during the winter and spring to explain why they supported the resort tax, how it would work and what benefits it would bring to the city. He said many people who initially opposed the tax changed their position after learning details.

While specifics of collecting and distributing the tax are still being determined, Olsen said all of the Mackay business owners he has talked with want to collect the tax in the same manner they collect other sales taxes, pay them to the state and then have the state reallocate the money to the city. The exact procedure will be determined by state officials, Olsen said.

The vote came about after the Mackay City Council late last year declared Mackay a resort city, as allowed by state law. Idaho cities with fewer than 10,000 residents with economies that rely mostly on tourism may declare themselves a resort city and impose a tax of up to 6 percent on specific services.

In Mackay, the additional revenue has been earmarked for street maintenance and repairs, airport improvements, park upgrades and emergency services. Mackay city officials estimate about $20,000 can be collected per year. The money must be allocated in the city budget prior to its collection and if more money is collected than was budgeted the additional money goes into a fund to provide tax relief to Mackay property owners, Olsen said.

Mackay becomes the 14th Idaho city with a resort tax. The other cities are Salmon, Stanley, Sun Valley, Riggins, Ketchum, Sandpoint, Driggs, Hailey, Lava Hot Springs, Victor, McCall, Ponderay and Donnelly. Most of those communities tax lodging, prepared food and liquor by the drink. Rates range from 0.5 of a percent to 4 percent in those cities.

Mackay and Leslie voters Tuesday also approved a request to annex more land into the Mackay Mosquito Abatement District by a vote of 113-19.

There are 687 registered voters in the Mackay and Leslie precincts and 132 ballots were cast on the mosquito district question, resulting in a voter turnout of 19.2 percent, according to data from the county clerk’s office.

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