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Resort tax finalizes appropriations

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PHOTO BY DARÍO MARTÍNEZ-BATLLE

By Bella Butler

BIG SKY – In the final of three Big Sky Area Resort Tax board appropriations meetings, the board finalized appropriation decisions for their spring cycle.

The board made a few adjustments to the preliminary award decisions made during their June 10 meeting, including increasing the proposed emergency reserve fund from $500,000 to $651,000, or 10 percent of the $6.51 million available for allocation.

A robust board discussion examined the intent of awarding applicants providing like services or projects equitably. The awards granted to the Big Sky Discovery Academy, who requested funds for their preschool program, and Morningstar Learning Center were in amounts that equate to the same dollar figure per child per day enrolled at each institution.

It was suggested by BSRAD Board Chair Kevin Germain that historic funding of Morningstar that afforded the childcare center ownership over their own facility put it at an advantage over BSDA, which must pay rent at their facility. Despite this consideration, however, a motion to increase BSDA’s award failed.

“Our board and staff worked hard to review each application and ensure that those applicants providing the public a similar service were treated fair and the process was equitable between entities,” said board member Ciara Wolfe in a statement shared with EBS. “This will help us hold them each to similar accountability standards and ensure everyone in our community is getting equal access to the entities we are funding with BSRAD collections.” Another example of this effort was the board’s choice to fund all conservation organization’s operational requests 75 percent, with the exception of the Gallatin Invasive Species Alliance, who trimmed their own request significantly.

In line with one of the board’s newly expressed priorities of matching funds and sourcing funds outside of resort tax, the Gallatin River Task Force was able to rescind a request for a $100,000 project that will model Gallatin Canyon groundwater discharge and support the planning and formation of a canyon district. The project is now being woven into the Big Sky County Water and Sewer District’s infrastructure project, which district voters approved to fund through an additional 1 percent of resort tax.

Following a small area wildfire that occurred between the June 10 and June 17 meetings, the board voted to award $80,000 to the Big Sky Fire Department on top of their award for operational costs for the replacement of two wildland apparatuses after initially opting to defer the request to the fall. Other large capital investments like the Big Sky Transportation District’s proposed bus barn were deferred to the fall cycle.

Of the $6.5 million, the board’s final appropriations totaled $2.5 million, leaving $3.3 million for fall appropriations considering the subtraction of the reserve.

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