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News in Brief: April 13, 2018

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School district seeks funds to pay higher salary to staff


Voters registered in the Big Sky School District have until Tuesday, May 8, to vote on a general fund levy proposed by the school district that would be used to pay teaching staff. Ballots will be mailed to voters on April 23, and will be due to the Gallatin County Elections Office by 8 p.m. on May 8.

This one-year, $40,000 request follows last year’s passage of a $100,110 general fund levy and $451,730 five-year building reserve levy. If approved, this levy would see a homeowner’s taxes rise approximately $3.89 for the year for a home valued at $200,000.

Money in the general fund is used by the district for expenses including paying utilities, insurance, special education and ongoing maintenance. It is also used to pay teacher salaries and benefits, which is how the 2018 request would be used.

The general fund is set by the state of Montana and is supported by state funds that are based on the number of students enrolled in a school district—Big Sky has 382 students.

According to school superintendent Dustin Shipman, for the district’s operations budget to experience even a slight increase—to pay teachers higher salaries, for example—a general fund levy is required.

“If the district has the means to provide a better salary for staff, then we want to do it, especially given the fact that we live in one of the most expensive communities in the country,” Shipman said.

Spanish Peaks hires new GM

Longtime employee Louise Astbury replaces David Mars


Spanish Peaks Mountain Club announced three changes in management on April 6. Louise Astbury, who has been with the club for 10 years, will replace David Mars as general manager. After three years at Spanish Peaks, Mars is taking a general manager position at The Henderson: A Salamander Beach Resort & Spa in Destin, Florida.

“Louise has been a tremendous asset to Spanish Peaks Mountain Club since its inception,” said Matt Kidd, managing director of CrossHarbor Capital Partners, the owner of Spanish Peaks. “[She] has unparalleled knowledge of the club [and] an unwavering passion for our membership and the Big Sky area. We are extremely fortunate to have someone of Louise’s caliber to promote internally.”

Astbury, who has a long history in the hospitality industry, had worked for the previous owner of Spanish Peaks for four years and when the club emerged in November 2013 under new ownership, Astbury started as member services director and was promoted to club director in August 2016. She is looking forward to her new role as general manager.

“I am very excited to have been given the opportunity to manage Spanish Peaks,” Astbury said. “The membership is near and dear to my heart and I want nothing more than to make the membership experience incredible, from fitness to dining and kids programs to golf. Summer … here we come!”

In addition to Astbury’s new position, Tim Phelps has been promoted to director of golf and winter pursuits, and Ryan Blechta to director of mountain operations and head superintendent.

Gallatin County holds course on wells


The Gallatin Local Water Quality District will be conducting well awareness courses in Big Sky and Bozeman, designed to educate private well owners on best practices for protecting their drinking water.

Homeowners will learn how to conduct an assessment of their well’s condition, identify potential contaminant sources, and discuss factors that can affect their water quality. Proper septic system maintenance and potential impacts on groundwater will also be discussed.

Informational packets and well assessment forms will be provided. Once participants have conducted their own well assessment at home after the course, GLWQD staff will be available to provide recommendations.

Courses begin at 5:30 p.m. and will be offered in Big Sky on April 17, at the Big Sky Water and Sewer District office, as well as in Bozeman on April 18, at the Bozeman Public Library.

Registration is available online at For more information, call the Gallatin Local Water Quality District at (406) 582-3148.

Upcoming forest meeting to consider plan alternatives


The Custer Gallatin Forest Plan Revision Team will hold two meetings this month that will be an opportunity for stakeholders to contribute to the developing forest plan revision.

These meetings will be held on April 21 in Bozeman at the Hilton Garden Inn, and on April 28 in Billings at the Bighorn Resort. Both meetings begin at 10 a.m.

After a forest plan draft was released early this year, many public comments were received that focused on certain land allocations. In light of this, the April meetings are intended to define recommended wilderness, backcountry areas, recreation emphasis areas and others.

“We won’t be getting into every detail but are looking to ensure the spectrum of comments we heard is incorporated, that people are able to help give critical feedback in the further development of these alternatives, and we are in a good place prior to moving into writing the draft environmental impact statement,” said revision leader Virginia Kelly in a press release.

The Custer Gallatin is just over halfway through a four-year process to revise the forest plan, which is an overarching document that guides the management of the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

Just after the April meetings, specialists will set the alternatives and start to dive into environmental analysis, which includes months of inquiry, researching, working across many specialties and breaking down each alternative to determine the potential environmental impacts.

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