Attorneys and taxes
Resort tax board moves forward in attempt at legislative changes
The decision was made at the December 21 Big Sky Resort Area District Board of Directors meeting to move forward in drafting legislation with Taylor Luther Group, PLLC that – if approved at the legislative session – would raise the threshold of resort tax at the state level from three to four percent.
This effort is in conjunction with West Yellowstone, which is facing severe infrastructure issues. Both communities are facing necessary water and sewer upgrades to accommodate for tourism demands. If successful, the cost is $50,000 to be split 50/50 between both communities. It was clarified during the meeting that the fee is actually $30,000 with a $20,000 contingency added-in which would not be due unless the bill is enacted into law.
“We should immediately make all the other resort districts in the state aware of our efforts,” Vice Chair Steve Johnson said explaining added financial support of the effort would be beneficial.
Mark Taylor, principal attorney with Taylor Luther Group attended the meeting via conference call and outlined strategy, stating the sooner the bill gets introduced into the legislative process the greater a chance at success.
“The last week of January makes a lot of sense from my standpoint. There is a bill placeholder out there as we work through the final drafting,” Taylor said.
Both the Big Sky board and Dan Sabolsky, town manager for West Yellowstone expressed the need to see the draft before moving forward. Board member Mike Scholz expressed concern that multiple amendments to the draft would delay its introduction to the legislative session and negatively impact its likelihood of passing. It was agreed that special meetings will be called if necessary, to expedite the process.
In other business, Board Chairman Kevin Germain discussed the need for the board to move forward in selecting an attorney. He created a list of attorneys he felt were qualified and urged other board members to provide their selected names as well so the request for proposal could be sent out.
“This list is not exhaustive,” he said.
Fire Chief William Farhat made use of the public comment period to warn against a potential legal misstep in the attempt at finding legal representation.
“I would be very concerned to send the RFP to a selected list. That could be criticized because you are not opening it up to the public to apply,” Farhat stated. “I would focus much more on very restrictive RFP language, that way you can filter out any attorney who applies to it. You can be sued for not allowing someone to apply for a public position.”
Germain thanked Chief Farhat for bringing that up. “I guess as a follow-up we have to post this to our website,” he said.
The board approved the creation of a subcommittee in the effort to find an attorney.
Germain closed the meeting by reading a five-minute prepared statement in response to “recent coverage.” He outlined that the board has been greatly burdened with efforts to collect more resort taxes. “We are doing everything we can do technologically… making all necessary steps to address those issues,” he said insisting that more “tools are needed in the toolbox” with regard to financing Big Sky’s growth and infrastructure demands.
Germain also expressed during that statement that if legislative changes are successful, any attempt to raise the resort tax will be put to a vote of the community.