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Resort tax looks to allocation, reflects on Covid

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BSRAD is reviewing applications for 49 projects proposed by 29 organizations totaling $9.2 million in requests. The application review meetings will be held on June 7 and 10 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. OUTLAW PARTNERS PHOTO

By Bella Butler

BIG SKY – As the Big Sky Resort Area District board and staff prepare for the allocation cycle, a new report shared at the board’s May 12 meeting revealed net gains for 2020 resort tax collections in Big Sky across all industries.

The report, prepared by Bozeman-based Northern Rocky Mountain Economic Development District, sought to describe the economic impact of COVID-19 on Big Sky industries, which the study parsed into 13 sectors. Jackie Haines, the economic development district’s executive director, shared key findings from the report at the meeting.

All industries in Big Sky showed net gains in both sales and resort tax collections, a finding the development district did expect to see, according to Haines. The district prepared a similar report to analyze resort tax collections in West Yellowstone, which yielded different results.

“Big Sky saw no lapses, which is not the case in West Yellowstone,” Haines said in an interview after the meeting. “That demonstrates that the economies are different, and the seasonality of resort tax collections are different.”

In the meeting, Haines also said the report revealed an increase in sales revenue in Big Sky between 2019-2020 that resulted in direct and indirect economic impacts of nearly $54 million. Haines described the direct impact as the value of a dollar when it’s first spent, and the indirect impact as the economic activity that the direct impact results in as it circulates throughout the community. Of that $54 million, approximately $32 million stayed in the community.

The report also found that the increase in sales directly impacted 635 jobs, resulting in more than $23,000 in impact per job.

“We’re really excited to have a partner to work with here to evaluate the impacts of COVID on our local economy,” said BSRAD Executive Director Daniel Bierschwale in a May 13 interview. “And we will continue to find opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of our local economy and how that ties into the overall resort area.”

The board is currently reviewing applications for 49 projects proposed by 29 organizations which total $9.2 million in requests. Resort tax collection amounts available to be awarded are not yet known.

The resort tax district is encouraging the public to review applications alongside the board leading up to the formal application review meetings, and to provide public comment. They’re advising public comment to be specific to a project as opposed to offering general support for an organization. The application review meetings will be held on June 7 and 10 from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

“I believe having constructive public comment on resort tax funded projects is important because they are public tax dollars at work,” said board Vice President Sarah Blechta. “To make a fiscally responsible decision, it’s important that the outcomes from awarding funds support community needs. Including the community is critical for the success of these projects and the district as a whole.”

The board also discussed a reserve funds strategy composed by a subcommittee made up of Bierschwale and board members Grace Young and Blechta. No action was taken on this item.

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