By Tyler Allen Explorebigsky.com Staff Writer
BIG SKY – Markus Kirchmayr stood before the Resort Tax Board on Wednesday, Oct. 10, to deliver a rare public comment questioning the boards’ spending priorities.
Kirchmayr, a Big Sky resident and owner of Alpine Property Management, aired concerns about the $170,000 in resort tax funding spent annually on a transportation service that, as he said, “subsidizes those who work in Big Sky, but choose to live and spend outside of Big Sky.”
Board members Les Loble, Jamey Kabisch, Mike Scholz, Jeff Strickler and Ginna Hermann (via conference call) listened as Kirchmayr explained that the Bozeman connection of the Skyline bus service is a huge expense. “Should we not instead turn those funds toward projects that create incentive for people to live, work and spend here in Big Sky?” he asked.
He suggested the transportation district should levy a tax for funding transportation in the area, as allowed by Montana law. Kirchmayr owns a taxi service as part of his business in Big Sky and described how one of his drivers recently quit because it was too expensive to live and work in Big Sky.
“[The resort tax board has] asked the transportation board numerous times to ask the community for a mill levy,” board chairman Loble said, “Markus should come to the [upcoming] town hall meetings because he’s brought up many good points.”
Next, the board discussed its proposed bonding authority with tax board attorney Mona Jamison, via conference call. Under Montana law, Resort Communities like Red Lodge have that capability to authorize bonds, but Resort Areas like Big Sky do not. Jamison is drafting a bill to present to the state legislature this November, requesting authority for the RTB to make bonding decisions in the future.
The proposal would give the RTB the authority to make bonding decisions without voter approval, Jamison explained. Board members weighed in on whether they believe it’s appropriate for the board to have that ability.
“This money is not being directly collected from taxpayers, because [Resort Area sales tax] is not a direct tax,” Strickler said.
“This would not be affecting the tax burden of [Big Sky] citizens,” Scholz added.
“I’m opposed to any bonding without voter approval,” Kabisch said, before the board voted on a motion to limit its bonding authority at 25 percent of the total appropriations budget. Kabisch was the only dissenting vote.
Next, the board discussed the upcoming town hall meetings – Dec. 12 and Jan. 16. The planned meetings resulted from the two-day RTB strategic planning session in August, facilitated by consultant Buz Davis. The meetings are intended to help the board streamline the application process for resort tax funding applicants and create an, “open dialogue with the resort tax board,” Hermann said.
“The first meeting could be ‘resort tax board, where are we today,’ and the second meeting, ‘where do we go’,” Kabisch suggested.
“Hopefully big ideas about the future will come up,” Scholz said, “[about] how Big Sky will become a world class resort.”
RTB administrative officer Whitney Brunner reported tax collection revenue this July was the best on record. The next RTB meeting will be Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 11 a.m.