Ennis Resort Tax Draft of ordinance released in advance of Oct. 4 meeting

A draft of the proposed resort tax ordinance for Ennis has been released and the town will hold a public meeting on the ordinance Oct. 4.
The public meeting will allow the town commissioners to gather public comment prior to the first reading of the ordinance, which will be at the regular monthly town commission meeting Oct. 14, said Ennis Mayor John Clark.
“This way it gives the commission time to think about the public comment before they have to act,” Clark said.
The discussion of a resort tax is not new to the Ennis community. This current iteration of the resort tax debate has been before the town commission for almost a year.
Montana law allows for communities and areas with a population less than 5,500 that have received resort designation from the Montana Department of Commerce to pass a maximum 3 percent resort tax. Ennis received its resort designation in 1997.
Ennis has discussed a resort tax twice before, but it has only been to a vote once – in 1998 – and was defeated.
Last May, the Ennis Town Commission voted to put the resort tax issue on the ballot again in March. In anticipation of that vote, a Helena lawyer and resort tax lobbyist, Mona Jamison, began holding public meetings in Ennis late last year.
Jamison crafted the Montana resort tax legislation back in the 1980s. She was hired by Ennis to help craft a resort tax ordinance with a grant from the Montana Department of Commerce.
The town has to pass a resort tax ordinance that will be contingent on the March vote, Jamison said.
The draft of the resort tax ordinance now before the public, was written, in part, from the input Jamison got at the public meetings held through last winter.
Under the draft ordinance, the resort tax would be 3 percent and be in effect from June 1 to Sept. 30 every year. The taxable items would be luxuries and include lodging establishments, restaurants, bars and taverns and destination recreational facilities.
Goods and services exempt from the tax include medical services, liquor stores, garage sales, real estate sales, farmers’ markets and other necessities of life.
The draft ordinance also provides for the collection of the tax, enforcement procedures for business’s that are delinquent in remitting resort tax revenues, and the formation of an Ennis Resort Tax Advisory Council.
It also outlines guidance to the town commission for the expenditure of resort tax revenues.
Under the draft ordinance, the money collected with the resort tax can be spent on: “A reduction in the municipal property tax levy in each fiscal year in an amount equal to at least 5 percent but not more than 25 percent of the resort taxes collected during the preceding fiscal year; and on any activity, undertaking or administrative service that the town of Ennis is authorized by law to perform including but not limited to water and sewer system improvements and rate reductions, emergency services, law enforcement, parks, bike paths, sidewalks, streets, library services, economic and tourism development and other projects authorized by law.”
Montana law requires any ordinance to be passed through two readings. These readings allow for the town commission to take public comment and incorporate those comments into changes in the ordinance, Clark said.
The meeting Oct. 4 will not be considered the first reading of the ordinance, he said.
The Oct. 14 meeting will include the first readings of three ordinances, Clark said. The new medical marijuana ordinance, the revamped animal ordinances and the resort tax ordinance. The commission will take public comment separately on each ordinance, he said.
The draft resort tax ordinance can be found on the city’s Website at www.ennismontana.org or by clicking here.

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