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News In Brief: June 8, 2018

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Resort tax district settles on question of private club dues

Annual collections to increase $275K


The board of the Big Sky Resort Area District recently reached resolution with the area’s private club over the taxation of membership dues.

In June 2015, the resort tax board amended its ordinance to include taxation of “discretionary or voluntary ski and golf fees and dues.” The Yellowstone Club, Spanish Peaks and Moonlight Basin were among the 10 businesses selected for audit for the 2016 calendar year. The clubs were found compliant in taxation of a number of goods and services, and had properly collected and remitted resort tax in those areas.

However, there were questions about the correct interpretation of the June 2015 ordinance regarding the taxability of membership dues, and how the portion of membership dues involved with ski and golf activities should be taxed.

In order to settle the unresolved membership dues issues, the district board and the clubs agreed that a portion of membership dues concerning ski and golf activities would be subject to resort tax. Of the three clubs, only the Yellowstone Club assesses dues for skiing, and all three clubs assess dues for golf.

At the Yellowstone Club, the board determined that 39 percent of membership dues were attributable to ski and golf, and subject to resort tax. At Spanish Peaks and Moonlight Basin, the board determined the golf valuation was the difference between golf and non-golf membership dues, and subject to resort tax.

As with other audited businesses requiring adjustment in the 2016 audits, the board required that the clubs pay any remaining unpaid back taxes for 2017 ski and golf activities; and apply, collect and remit taxes in 2018, and in the future. With present membership rates and the number of memberships, the increase in annual resort tax collection will be approximately $275,000.

Voters back Rosendale, Williams, open space in June 5 primary


Montana voters on June 5 selected Republican Matt Rosendale to challenge U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, and Democrat Kathleen Williams to face U.S. Rep Greg Gianforte, in this November’s mid-term election. In Gallatin County, voters overwhelmingly supported an open space ballot initiative, 62 to 38 percent, according to early results.

State Auditor Rosendale received nearly 38 percent of the votes, with his closest challenger Russell Fagg, a former state legislator and 13th District Court judge, garnering approximately 29 percent. Big Sky businessman Troy Downing received approximately 19 percent of the votes—just over 29,000—followed closely by Montana State Senator Al Olszewski with approximately 28,500 votes.

Williams, a former Montana State representative, won a close race in the Democratic primary in order to challenge Gianforte this November. Williams edged out Billings lawyer John Heenan by nearly 2,000 votes in a field of five contenders.

The open space ballot initiative will result in a property tax that will generate approximately $20 million for conservation initiatives over the next 15 years.

“When Gallatin County residents took the long view, voting to reinvest in the open space program, they voted for the future of quality of life in Montana,” wrote Jessie Wiese, Montana Land Reliance’s southwest manager, in an email to EBS. “MLR looks forward to continuing work with the Open Lands Board and Gallatin County’s dedicated landowners.”

BSCO retains resort tax funds to speed up TIGER grant projects


At the May 25 meeting of the Big Sky Resort Area District resort tax board, Ciara Wolfe, executive director of the Big Sky Community Organization, was authorized to retain $142,000 in resort tax obtained during the 2017 funding cycle, to speed up the $10 million TIGER grant projects along the Lone Mountain Trail corridor. With construction originally forecasted to begin in 2021 or 2022 at the earliest, the funds will move that date up by one year.

The $142,000 from resort tax was appropriated as a match for a Montana Transportation Alternative Program grant that BSCO did not receive. Typically, unmatched funding would remain in the resort tax coffers, but since it was allocated for one of the projects covered in full by the TIGER grant—the pedestrian tunnel under Lone Mountain Trail at Little Coyote Road—the board agreed to let BSCO keep the funding to expedite construction.

Gallatin County cannot expend any money on the project until the TIGER grant contract is signed in the fall, and that would delay seasonally sensitive preliminary steps, namely an assessment of environmental impacts, until summer of 2019.

“This money up front allows us to get the project designed and start engineering work this winter, instead of next,” Wolfe said. “It also decreases construction inflation costs, takes care of the safety concerns, and ensures that we maximize the grant.”

Wolfe said that she cannot specify exactly when construction on the TIGER grant projects will begin, but that it will be a year earlier than originally anticipated.

Threatening message left at Yellowstone Club job site


A threatening graffiti message left in a portable bathroom at a Yellowstone Club construction site led the club to keep its employees at home May 31, due to security concerns.

According to a June 2 press release from the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, its department was made aware of a message that read “Job site shooting 5/31/18 lunch bring family,” in a portable toilet at a Yellowstone Club Core Village construction site.

Club employees were given the day off, while construction crews were given the option to work or not. The subcontractors that did choose to work left for home around lunchtime, said Sgt. Brandon Kelly, and there was no incident resulting from the threat. As of June 6, when EBS went to press, Kelly said there hadn’t been any leads to help identify who had written the message and there hadn’t been any additional incidents.

On May 31, the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, along with Montana Highway Patrol, assisted Yellowstone Club security with additional law enforcement presence on the scene. The sheriff’s office is continuing to work with the club’s security team to identify the author of the threat, according to the release.

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