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Resort tax board sets stage to award $8.1M

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About 80 attendees gathered in-person and on Zoom for the June 6 Big Sky Resort Area District board application review meeting. PHOTO BY GABRIELLE GASSER

By Gabrielle Gasser ASSOCIATE EDITOR

BIG SKY – With a heavy focus on funding community-identified priorities, the Big Sky Resort Area District board made preliminary decisions on Monday night about where and how Big Sky’s public tax dollars will go to work in the community at the first of two application review meetings.

In front of a combined in-person and Zoom audience of approximately 80 people, the five-member board reviewed 66 projects submitted by 21 organizations for a total of $8.7 million in requests.

Resort tax, established in 1992, is a 3 percent tax on all luxury goods and services sold within the Big Sky Resort Area District boundary. Each year in June the district board awards the collections to community projects and organizations for the fiscal year beginning in July.  The general electorate voted in May of 2020 to add an additional 1 percent to the tax to fund infrastructure projects. 

This year the board categorized projects into six impact areas: Arts and Education; Economic Development; Health and Safety; Housing; Public Works; and Recreation and Conservation. 

Six projects were on the table in the housing impact area for a total of $1.8 million in requests. On Monday the board funded $1.7 million across this impact area, representing approximately 11 percent of the district’s fiscal year 23 budget. Vice Chair Ciara Wolfe and board member Kevin Germain expressed hope that eventually 25 percent of the board’s total budget will fund housing projects.

The board identified a handful of other funding priorities including childcare, transportation, workforce development, destination management and mental health resources.

Vice Chair Ciara Wolfe speaks during the meeting. PHOTO BY GABRIELLE GASSER

“Workforce and small business development was definitely a priority for our community [and] for the chamber of commerce,” Wolfe said during the meeting.

The largest chunk of funding allocated by the board, $4.9 million, went toward the public works impact area, which also includes previous interlocal commitments to other local entities and the 1 percent for infrastructure commitment. The recreation and conservation impact area received the second largest portion of funding at $3.3 million across 29 different projects.

Throughout the evening, the board continually emphasized its desire to work with and for the community and encouraged the various organizations present to also work together. 

During the course of the meeting, the Big Sky Sustainability Network Organization pulled its $5,400 request for recycling and compost services in Town Center and at the community park softball fields off the table after the Big Sky Community Organization offered to absorb the costs related to the softball fields. Lone Mountain Land Company will cover the service in Town Center.

Board chair Sarah Blechta listens to public comment during the June 6 meeting. PHOTO BY GABRIELLE GASSER

“This is why we are better together,” Board Chair Sarah Blechta said afterward. “Coordination and collaboration. I love it.”

At the end of the evening, the board had passed motions to fund $8.1 in requests and put $252,886.50 into its reserve. 

The board will meet again on June 9 to ratify allocations made on June 6. The meeting will take place in person at BASE and virtually on Zoom starting at 5:30 p.m. To submit public comment prior to the meeting email  until the end of the day on June 8 and include your first and last name. Public comment may also be provided during the meeting either in person or via the “raise your hand feature” on Zoom.

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