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BSRAD to debut scoring system for resort tax funding

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By Jason Bacaj EBS Contributor

BIG SKY – The Big Sky Resort Area District opened its annual allocation cycle this month, which carries several changes this year as the district’s board looks to refine its decision-making process. Among the changes are an application scoring system and the ability to form three-year interlocal agreements with outside governmental bodies.

The last 12 months certainly weren’t easy for the Big Sky community. But Daniel Bierschwale, executive director of BSRAD, said that all things considered the community has weathered the pandemic relatively well.

“With a light at the end of the tunnel and an eye on the coming summer season with vaccines and shots starting to get into arms, we feel this is going to be a productive summer in Big Sky,” Bierschwale said.

BSRAD was braced to see tax revenue cut in half after Big Sky Resort suspended operations last spring, Bierschwale said. Part of the preparation for that worst-case scenario was splitting the annual allocation cycle into two six-month cycles and pausing direct infrastructure projects.

As the months unfurled, however, tax revenue rebounded from the springtime dip. The first six months of fiscal year 2021—which runs from July 2020 to June 2021—showed 12 percent growth over the year prior, according to the most recent BSRAD financial report.

One overarching goal BSRAD has for this allocation cycle is to become more intentional, objective and strategic with how the board decides to fund projects, according to Bierschwale. In order to accomplish that, the district is rolling out a scoring system.

The most recent draft of the scoring system has 13 total categories, with an emphasis on matching funds, diverse sources of funding, long-term vision and financial sustainability. Each application will go through a review and be assigned a score out of 100. A copy of the scoring system is available in the packet for the March 10 BSRAD board meeting.

Bierschwale noted that, regardless of an application’s score, the final decision rests with the five board members.

“It’s a tool in the toolkit to be able to evaluate collaboration, planning and efficiency of projects,” Bierschwale said. “This first go-round it’s a draft for us to utilize and adapt … to meet the community needs.”

Along with the scoring system, BSRAD aims to become more strategic in how it disburses money by entering into interlocal agreements with outside government entities, such as Gallatin and Madison counties, Bierschwale noted. The agreements would last three years and provide the benefit of allowing Bierschwale and the district board to forecast upcoming expenses and more effectively plan where to direct money over the long term.

“One thing we’re shifting toward is really evaluating our fund use and forecasting out three years and really trying to understand what capital improvements are coming down the pipe,” Bierschwale said.

Applications for the upcoming allocation cycle are open until April 15. The five BSRAD board members will make their final decision in June on which projects will receive funding.

Important FY22 funding cycle dates:

  • Monday, March 1st | Applications Live 
  • Wednesday, March 3rd | Application Training/Q&A Session 
  • Thursday, April 15th | Application Deadline 
  • Wednesday, May 12th | Questions shared with Applicants 
  • Wednesday, March 26th | Applicant Responses returned to District 
  • Monday, June 7th | Application Review Meeting 1
  • Thursday, June 10th | Application Review Meeting 2

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