Big Sky Resort Area District staff socially distancing as they interact with board members via Zoom. PHOTO BY JANA BOUNDS

Years of discussion and considerable effort come to fruition

Big Sky Resort Area District makes new moves with FY22 application proces

Big Sky Resort Area District (BSRAD) keeps the wheels of Big Sky moving by use of a luxury tax. Since 1993, the district has awarded nearly $73.2 million to area organizations. To facilitate those allocations there has been a time-intensive application process, demanding of both applicants and the board. BSRAD has had the goal the last couple of years of making the application and allocation process a little less onerous for those involved. Board Vice Chair Sarah Blechta and Secretary and Treasurer Steve Johnson spent a good deal of time in an effort to make the application user friendly. FY22 applications, which opened-up on March 1, will be the test run resulting from extensive discussion and effort.

Johnson said during the BSRAD board meeting that they will not really know how they did until after this application process is completed. BSRAD Executive Director Daniel Bierschwale explained the applications are designed to provide additional context and support for the applicants “as we are requesting data and helping them understand how BSRAD is using the data to make decisions.”

The board has been moving toward a scoring system as a strategic methodology of review that will assist the board in making the best decisions possible, he explained.

“We continue to refine the application and process to provide clear and concise direction to applicants and develop a methodology for review that serves the board in making the best decisions possible,” Bierschwale wrote in his March Executive Report.

The board has been steadily moving toward a scoring system in order to bring some level of objectivity in the decision-making process, Bierschwale explained during the meeting, noting it provides a more objective understanding of what is asked of applicants as well as a supplemental tool for board decisions.

The scoring system has three major areas of focus: collaboration, efficiency and planning.

Board Director Grace Young said she ran through two of the last cycle applications using the scoring system, as a means to test it out.

“I felt like it gave me a really good critical thinking tool. These are apples to oranges projects, and this [provided] a level playing field to think about all of them,” she said.

Additionally, the board will be requesting a project budget of applicants, which is something that has never been requested before.

Bierschwale explained that staff has been working hard to create another kind of application, and he commended their efforts.

“It’s… the first time we have opened up an application for those separate governmental entities that are able to enter into an interlocal agreement with the Resort Tax,” he said of the newly launched 3-year Government Operations application.

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