By Michael Somerby EBS DIGITAL EDITOR
BIG SKY – The Big Sky Resort Area District tax board met March 13 in the Resort Tax Office for an open board meeting to discuss agenda items including updates on the Big Sky Community Strategic Plan, the legislative session in Helena, and resort tax compliance within the Big Sky community, among other topics.
On March 12, Senate Bill 241, which would give 10 resort communities around the state the option to levy an additional 1 percent resort tax, passed the Montana Senate Taxation Committee in a 10-2 vote. Next, the bill goes to the Senate floor at a date to be determined.
With five out of seven Republicans on the Senate Taxation Committee voting in favor of the bill, the BSRAD board is positive about the bill’s next stage, considering members of the party tend to seek reductions in taxation rather than adding new forms. Every taxation committee Democrat voted in favor of the bill.
One of the persistent difficulties in taxing businesses in an unincorporated community like Big Sky pertains to compliance and standardizing taxation practices. BSRAD audits 10 tax-collecting businesses each year as a matter of routine, but seeks to rewrite Legal Ordinance No. 98-01-ORD which currently “denotes the details of goods and services subject to and exempted from the resort tax,” in order to leave nothing to subjective interpretation.
The discrepancy over taxation levied on the sale of alcohol in a bar versus alcoholic beverages sold in a convenience store or grocery store was used as representative of the necessity in clarifying the ordinance.
“The number one thing on my list right now is compliance,” said board Chairperson Kevin Germain.
As a continuation from the Feb. 13 open board meeting, board Vice Chair Steve Johnson expressed interest in furthering the prospect of a tax-free timeframe, designated for local community members.
“We talked about the idea of potentially having some tax-free period where the tax is forgiven … The general thing we’ve talked about is that it would be done in the shoulder season so there’s no question about visitors being here,” Johnson said. “We should probably bake that into the ordinance on how the provisions work for that.”
During the March 13 meeting, the board also discussed the Community Visioning Strategy, called “Our Big Sky,” which launched in late February with noted success, according to BSRAD Secretary Buz Davis.
“People were happy and appreciative,” Davis said. “I think it went really well with no glitches.”
Johnson echoed Davis, adding a note on the popularity of the one-on-one interviews with representatives from the commissioned Logan Simpson consulting firm and the “Polaroid’s and Pints” events held at Gallatin Riverhouse Grill and Beehive Basin Brewery.
“This was the launch week, and I think [Logan Simpson] achieved liftoff,” Johnson said. “In previous engagements like this, they never filled up the one-on-one schedule.”
“I think it’s a testament to this community, how passionate the citizens are,” Germain added.