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BSRAD awards $3 million in funds to Big Sky organizations

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The Big Sky Resort Area District added a special fall allocation cycle this year due to the unstable situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic. GRAPHIC COURTESY OF BSRAD

By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – This year, the Big Sky Resort Area District added a fall allocation cycle for the first time ever. Over four million dollars in total requests were submitted for the fall allocation cycle and at their Nov 12. meeting, the BSRAD board awarded 3 million dollars in funds to various organizations.

The fall applications cycle was organized slightly differently than the traditional yearly application cycle. Instead of considering an organization as a whole, the board considered each project individually.

This cycle went smoothly since most of the applications were already seen by the board during the spring cycle.

The board fully funded the requests of the three government entities, the Big Sky Fire Department, the Big Sky Transportation District and the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office.

The rest of the requests were split into two categories, community projects over $100,000 and community projects under $100,000.

In their Nov. 10 meeting, the board discussed each of the six community projects over $100,000 individually. Of those six, five were funded based on the staff recommendation and one was placed in a pending status, the first time the board has ever placed a project in that status.

The application from the Big Sky Community Housing Trust for $1.4 million for future property development was labeled as pending and a working group was formed to gather more information about the project. The group will work with Laura Seyfang, the executive director of the BSCHT, and Lone Mountain Land Company to understand the scope of the project.

“We just didn’t have enough [information] to say yea or nay right now and we need to make sure that we have a full understanding of how those dollars are going to be used,” said Daniel Bierschwale, the executive director of BSRAD.

Bierschwale predicts that the BSCHT project will come back to the BSRAD board sometime in January or February of 2021, meaning the organization will not need to wait until the next allocation cycle to hear the board’s decision.

Another project that sparked further discussion by the board was Visit Big Sky’s request of $353,432 dollars for their project to promote Big Sky as a tourist destination. Bierschwale noted that the board is seeking additional details from Visit Big Sky on their project and what the future needs of that particular project would look like.

One community member felt that the decision to fund Visit Big Sky to hire an external advertisement agency was not the best use of community funds in the current uncertain situation.

Mark Davidson explained that when he saw the list of all the requests, the large sum for the Visit Big Sky project caught his eye as it was the third largest amount.

“At the current moment, I feel like those dollars can be better spent in the community, solving issues that are already current rather than bringing in more people and not solving them,” Davidson said.

But while he may differ in opinion on funding for that specific project, Davidson appreciates the work done by the board for the Big Sky community.

“Overall, I’m very happy with what the Resort Tax Board does for sure…I think they do a very good job of being fair with everybody, and I’ve got no critiques there,” he said.

Also included in the Nov. 10 board meeting was a community report card assessing the progress of the Community Strategic Plan rolled out approximately a year ago by BSRAD. The goal of the plan is to look ahead and anticipate community needs and implement strategies to meet those needs.

Moving forward, the board is trying to wean community organizations off of long-term dependence on resort tax dollars. In addition, the next awards cycle will be the first time that the application process is changed to reflect the board’s new strategy of considering applications for projects rather than organizations as a whole in an effort to be more specific with how funds will be used.  

The current plan for BSRAD is to return to only having their spring awards cycle, as long as collections are not interrupted this coming winter.

According to Bierschwale, “for instance, if an entire month of revenue is lost because the resort has to get shut down because of an outbreak [of COVID], that would be the type of thing that would cause us to really have to think through whether or not we want to spend our money for a full year all at once or keep to the two [cycles].”

This year was unique for BSRAD, with an extra allocation cycle, and the first instance that the board ever placed an application on a pending status.

To see the full BSRAD Fiscal Year ‘21 awards visit resorttax.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Copy-of-Fall-Award-Final-11-12-20.pdf. To view the results of an EBS survey gauging the importance of funding each proposed project with Big Sky community members feedback visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-J8625BF67/.

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