City rolls out in-depth info web page ahead of Nov. 8 ‘tourist tax’ ballot measure

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

Sandpoint residents will be asked at the polls Nov. 8 whether they support increasing the local option tax on short-term lodging from 7% to 14% — a ballot measure fronted by City Hall to “leverage visitor investment to meet community needs,” said Sandpoint City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton at the Oct. 19 regular meeting of the City Council.

The LOT, alternately referred to as the “bed tax” or “tourist tax,” was approved by voters in 2014 and went into effect in January 2015, with the intent to funnel dollars from short-term stays of 30 days or less at local hotels, motels and vacation rentals into the coffers for public safety and parks. 

Due to sunset in 2025, the current LOT has pulled in about $600,000 per year. If approved, 7% of the tax would continue to go toward public safety and parks, but the 7% increase on the Nov. 8 ballot would be directed toward funding street and sidewalk projects around the city. In addition, the LOT would be extended to 2035.

The ballot language approved by councilors in August reads:

“Shall the City of Sandpoint, Bonner County, Idaho, adopt an ordinance providing for an increase of its hotel/motel occupancy tax from its current 7% to 14% and extend the period of years for its collection to end December 31, 2035. This tourist lodging tax applies to all short-term rentals of 30 days or less, including hotels and motels, condos and vacation homes.

“50% of the revenues received will continue to fund purposes approved by voters in 2014, including public safety services, public parks and other infrastructure and capital projects. The remaining 50%, anticipated to be $6,000,000 over 12 years, will be dedicated to the following purposes:”

Those purposes include street pavement, sealing, widening, reconstruction and associated stormwater infrastructure; improvements to the Pedestrian Priority Network, including maintenance of sidewalks and pathways, as well as reconstruction and extensions to provide connectivity and increase ADA accessibility and safety; property tax relief; and to cover costs related to enforcement and collection of the tax.

Providing an in-depth view of the specific projects to be addressed by the proposed LOT increase, as well as information on the need for those projects, city staff unveiled an interactive web page devoted to the ballot measure on Oct. 19, showing everything from the current condition of street and pedestrian infrastructure to maps and narratives of short- and long-term priority areas to frequently asked questions. 

Further, the page includes project-by-project maps, descriptions and estimated expenditures for the initial round of work that would be supported by the LOT increase.

The web page is available at, under “News & Announcements”; has been shared on the city’s social media accounts, the Engage Sandpoint app and city newsletter; and can be directly accessed at

“This is perfect,” said Councilor Andy Groat. “If I were a citizen that had an opinion about the conditions of our sidewalks and streets, as well as had an opinion about who’s going to pay for it and how we’re going to get there — to be able to go this and more clearly understand the needs and what this is going to look like, is exponentially better than a pamphlet in the mail.”

Information contained in the LOT online page will also be made available at the upcoming drop-in housing and neighborhoods workshop, scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 27 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Tango Cafe in the Sandpoint Center (414 Church St.).

“Staff has done everything that we can to try to solve this very difficult problem of how do we fund street and sidewalk improvements in our community when we simply don’t have the dollars to do it,” said Mayor Shelby Rognstad, “and I think we’ve put together the best proposal that we possibly can for the public and the public has every opportunity to make a perfectly informed decision about where their priorities lie.”

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