LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

BLAINE COUNTY -- While education reform remains a hot-button issue, there's another measure on the ballot in parts of Blaine County that's creating a buzz. It's over a local option tax for air service.

The idea behind the local option tax is to increase tourism and therefore boost the local economy in Ketchum, Sun Valley and Hailey. But there are some who say the tax isn't right because it would only promote private business.

Filling the chairlifts with tourists is critical for the economy of Blaine County. But to get tourists on the hill skiing, you've got to first get them here.

The number one thing that people complain about, people coming to Idaho and Sun Valley, is accessibility, said Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley Resort.

That's why Fly Sun Valley Alliance is pushing for a one percent local option tax in Ketchum, Sun Valley and Hailey. Money generated would be spent on expanding the county's air service. Non-stop flights from San Francisco and two other cities could be added. But airlines won't fly if they can't make money. The supplemental tax would guarantee them a minimum revenue, even if the flights aren't full.

In small communities, resort communities like ours, airlines generally no longer fly there unless you provide some support in a way of financial guarantee, said Eric Seder, Fly Sun Valley Alliance president.

Fly Sun Valley Alliance is pushing the issue hard. They are setting up booths and talking directly with voters.

But those opposed have their own campaign strategy. Jake Jacoby has taken out several ads in the local paper. He believes the measure is a misuse of the local option tax, a tax he says is legally intended to improve and maintain a resort town's infrastructure, not to fatten the wallets of private business.

Why should I have to pay for someone who flies here? It's not my job to make sure they come here, said Jacoby.

Sibbach says competing resorts like Jackson Hole have attracted more skiers than Sun Valley in the last three to four years -- due mainly to its eight non-stop flights.

We're quite confident that with a couple of years buildup that San Francisco would generate something like 9,000 new visitors per year, said Seder.

Jacoby agrees more tourists are needed and he's all about improving the economy in Blaine County -- just not this way.

Taxpayers shouldn't be paying for that, said Jacoby.

The measure needs a 60 percent majority to pass. Voters in Ketchum, Sun Valley and Hailey will decide come Nov. 6.

In Ketchum and Sun Valley, the tax would be added to retail and restaurant sales, liquor by the drink, hotel rooms, and ski lift passes and tickets.

It would only be collected on rental cars and hotel rooms in Hailey.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://www.ktvb.com/story/news/local/2014/06/30/11836047/