By Bella Butler
BIG SKY – The Big Sky Resort Area District approved its budget for fiscal year 22 and allocated funds to a lobbying effort in Helena at an April 7 board meeting.
The budget includes some increased and decreased line items from previous years. Notably, the budget for public information was approved for a $70,000 increase with the intention to put effort into further engaging the community with the district.
“We have made it easier now more than ever with COVID for our community to be able to engage,” BSRAD Executive Director Daniel Bierschwale said during the meeting. “I think we just need to continue to lean into it and provide these opportunities for the community to really voice their support and opposition when there are areas of concern within the community, and when the district is focused on the right things we need to hear from Big Sky.”
The total budget was approved at $939,953, a nearly 18 percent increase from the fiscal year 21 budget.
The board also approved the allocation of $36,000 for a lobbying effort in the Montana Legislature to expand funding options for the planned upgrade of the water and sewer wastewater treatment plant and other water and sewer projects. Because of voters’ election to apply an additional 1 percent to resort tax for use of these infrastructural projects, BSRAD can contribute up to $27 million. BSRAD Board Director Steve Johnson reported that the projects’ total estimate of $45 million has increased to $52 million.
After an alternative funding option for the project, the use of the State Revolving Fund, has fallen through, the resort area and water and sewer districts are working on obtaining a cut of federal COVID-19 relief dollars recently given to the state.
Montana received nearly $3 billion of the $1.9 trillion from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, and a Montana house bill recently allocated the funds, including apportioning $500 million for infrastructure projects.
“Steve, Danny and I, who have been working with the subcommittee at the water and sewer district, really feel like it’s our fiduciary responsibility to the community of Big Sky to do everything we can to see if we can leverage our dollars with some of the federal stimulus dollars for our water and sewer projects,” said Board Chair Kevin Germain.
Germain said an agreement has been arranged with lobbyists in Helena—the same lobbyists BSRAD worked with on the 1 percent for infrastructure, Johnson added—to work from now through October when the funding decisions are made to try and procure ARPA funds for Big Sky water and sewer projects.
The lobbying efforts will total $60,000 and, proportionate to the agreement between the water and sewer district and the resort area district in funding the projects, BSRAD will cover 60 percent of this cost and the remaining 40 percent will be covered by the water and sewer district.
Bierschwale also provided a brief executive summary during the meeting and said that based on preliminary collection data, February resort tax collections are anticipated to total roughly 5 percent below last year. “We feel confident that the community will close out the season strong,” Bierschwale wrote in his report.
Bierschwale also requested the board review a draft policy manual for the district to be discussed at the next meeting.