Explorebigsky.com Editorial Staff

The Big Sky Weekly asked each of the five candidates running in the Big Sky Resort Tax Board
elections four questions. The editorial staff chose two or three answers they thought best
displayed candidates’ views and edited them for brevity. Ballots are sent to registered Big Sky
voters in late October. Unregistered residents have until Nov. 8 to register at the Gallatin County
Elections Office. Ballots are due Nov. 8 at 8 p.m.

1. With no city council or governance, Big Sky residents must rule themselves
at the local level. How do you fit in with the notion that resort tax is,
in essence, the highest governance in an unincorporated town?
2. Everyone seems to have ideas as to what Big Sky town needs for growth
and development. With input coming at you from all angles, how would
you look to accept and collaborate others, and where would you draw a
line and deal internally with the other board members?
3. Events are a hot issue in Big Sky–a stage was built to host weekly music
during the summer, bull riding came to town, music festivals, etc. What
do you think about appropriating money for businesses looking to bring
in foot traffic for events?
4. You’ll be appropriating revenues while the national and global economies
are in grim shape and look to stay that way. How do you think the Big Sky
economy is impacted by the world around it?

Jeff Strickler


In Big Sky since: 2005
Occupation: Retired pediatrician;
Author

4. The national economy is a given
that we all must live with. In tight
times, small communities, especially
in resort areas, have to work
harder to survive and prosper. We
as a Resort Tax Area need to be judicious
with our use of dollars just as
we are individually at home and in
our businesses.
To do this, expenditures need to be
reasoned and reasonable.
I have four criteria in descending
order of priority that I would use to
evaluate proposals and make decisions:
a) Most critical are those projects that
are essential to the infrastructure of the
Big Sky community. The best example
was paying off of the bonds that allowed
the repair of the sewer and water
system.
b) Second are those things that mitigate
the effect of the huge influx of tourists
here. Funding ambulance and equipment
purchase by the Fire Department
falls here. Although the Fire District
has a taxing capability, it seems inappropriate
for local property taxpayers to
foot all this bill when visitors represent
half the emergency calls.
c) Third are projects that improve the
quality of life in Big Sky for both locals
and visitors [like] concerts, music festivals,
and your community library.
d) Finally, I would consider proposals
that designed to bring business and
improve the economy of Big Sky–the
caveat being they would generate a net
increase in Resort Tax revenues. The
Biggest Skiing in America campaign
has done this well, and done it during a
recession.

Ginna Hermann

(Running as an incumbent to fulfill second
two years of her four-year term).

In Big Sky since: 1999
Occupation: Fundraiser
3. Unfortunately, the direct giving
of money to businesses is not an
option because the law says that
Resort Tax Board grants cannot
benefit a single individual, organization
or corporation. All grants
must instead benefit “the community
at large” and also must
be given to legal entities capable
of “legally and practically” carrying
out that purpose. I believe
this allows us to support projects
that help bring foot traffic to our
Community. I believe in these
kinds of projects, which is one of
the reasons I’ve supported funding
[for] the events, festivals and
music performances that [are] a
big part of our resort community.
These improve the quality of life
[and] they bring people to Big Sky
and directly and indirectly support
our local businesses.
4. The Big Sky community, on an
annual basis, reflects many of the
same needs and difficulties of the
world beyond Big Sky: families
in crisis, libraries needing funding,
a shrinking economy, and the
difficulty of funding the services
that are needed by the community,
including the post office, the fire
department, and the police. With
Resort Tax funds often insufficient
to fund all worthy projects,
my role is to ensure the Board does
the careful and detailed analysis
needed to help best prioritize these
needs and determine how funds
can be used in the most effective
manner.

Michael John Romney

In Big Sky since: 2008
Occupation: Commercial and residential
property owner

2. I strongly agree we need to promote growth
and development. I have access to and can relate
to all types of people in the community, from
the seasonal workers, to the young couples
raising families here, to the empty-nesters,
retirees and vacationers. Everyone has ideas and
opinions about what we can do to improve the
community. I’m experienced with working with
limited resources, managing budgets, meeting
targets and ultimately trying to meet our goals
with a finite amount of resources. My job will
be to gain a broad based understanding of the
needs and wishes of the community and to deliver
results as effectively as possible given the
applicable resource constraints. With regard to
collaborating with the Board Members, they’re
a group of experienced and intelligent mix of
community members who have given their time
and energy to help better the community and
whom I respect. I’m looking forward to working
with them, understanding their points of view
and perspectives, and ultimately making the
best decisions for the community.
3. I’m 100 percent supportive of the idea of
putting money behind events. Events promoted
by the Arts Council and things like the PBR are
a benefit to the community and the quality of
life here. They bring tourists and part-timers
here, more often growing the community and
revenues to support our local families and businesses.
They help put Big Sky “on the map.”

James Kabisch

In Big Sky since: 2005
Occupation: Banker
2. Having a dialogue with the public regarding
different allocation topics will be helpful. I’m not
an expert in most topics coming before the board,
which is why I’m going to need to have discussion
regarding the requests with members of the
community that have [expertise] or a history of
working with an issue.
3. Events are great for Big Sky. I think that the
BSRAD Board will need to evaluate each event
request individually. [An event must] also make
sense for the community as a whole. Generally, I
support bringing more people to Big Sky, and doing
it through event promotion. I’m not supportive
of poorly run events, or events that benefit a
single promoter without broad economic impact
in our community.
4. We need an increase in the number of people
visiting Big Sky annually. Visitors are the lifeblood
of this community, and we need more to
fill our local retailers, restaurants and beds.

Loren Bough

In Big Sky since: 2003
Occupation: President of Friends of Big Sky Education
2. Residents of Big Sky are often frustrated with the
lack of one place to be heard on issues. The seasonality
of residents, diverse geography of the community, and
wide-ranging ideologies make it difficult to find a forum for
expression. The Resort Tax application process, always held
in public meeting format, is a well-recognized venue to
make suggestions to who we are as a community and how
we operate.
3. Resort Tax has a broad legal mandate to increase tourism
in our community. As traditional media advertising
has failed to deliver the boost our economy needs, Resort
Tax has experimented, wisely in my opinion, with limited
event promotion to increase the number of visitors, and increase
the likelihood they stay and spend. These events can
be viewed as self-funding–bringing 2,000 visitors to Big
Sky for a concert or rodeo has a DIRECT positive impact
on Resort Tax revenues AND local businesses. I expect we
will see more economic modeling of the specific monetary
impact each event can bring, and our funding decisions will
be made based on these models.

Mike Scholz

In Big Sky since: 1972
Occupation: Co-Owner Buck’s T-4
3. Appropriating money for private businesses looking
to bring in foot traffic for events is not within
the BSRAD legal authority. Allocations can only
be made to qualified 501-3C organizations, which
could be composed of member businesses and community
partners.
I support Resort Tax allocations [that] stand to generate
more [tax] revenue. One of the primary goals as
written into statute of the Big Sky Resort Tax was
to increase tourism visitation through promotion.
Events can help reach that goal, [but] only through
public-private partnerships. Private businesses
aren’t eligible (nor would it be appropriate for them
to be) to receive public funds.
As to events [that] increase foot traffic, they can
qualify if sponsored by a qualified organization.
Their ability to be funded will depend on the
amount available, priorities of the community for a
given year, and the Board’s decision as to the return
of the investment for the event measured by both
tangible and intangible benefits to the community.
4. This brings up community issues that are just as
important today as they were 20 years ago when
we created the BSRAD. With the tax, citizens and
guests pay 3 percent extra because local businesses
in effect raise the price of luxury goods and tourism
and recreational services by 3 percent. The benefits
provided by the board’s allocation decisions need to
justify the costs both paying and collecting the tax.
A balanced approach [would] address several key
issues:
• Provide for underfunded needs for public
health and safety issues for both citizens and
visitors protection
• Promote economic growth and development for
the advancement of a healthy and giving community
through growing resort tax collections
• Help provide public services and activities
expected of a world class resort and thoughtful
community
These are the same issues we stressed to the Montana
Legislature in 1989 to convince them to allow
a non-incorporated area like Big Sky to willingly tax
ourselves and our customers to achieve our community’s
goals. They’re the same issues that convinced
our community to vote in favor of the resort tax.
From year to year, the balance between these three
areas has varied with circumstance. We have to react accordingly.