Solidifying the deal
Proposed 1% Resort Tax increase to be seen on May ballot
A collaborative effort between Big Sky Resort Area District (Resort Tax) and Big Sky County Water and Sewer District (BSCWSD) to address wastewater issues in the area moves closer to the ballot. The boards recently ratified their interlocal agreement, which outlines their respective responsibilities should the 1% additional Resort Tax be approved by voters. “The purpose of the interlocal agreement is to memorialize the details of, if approved by the voters in May, how the 1% tax will fund the project. It is simply making sure that each of the parties know what their rights and obligations are,” BSCWSD vice president Tom Reeves, who was also a member of the joint subcommittee who came up with the plan said. “This is another step of the collaboration of two important districts agreeing to support the community wide (beyond just the BSCWSD boundaries) needs.” The 1% increase would help fund two projects: approximately 60% but not to exceed $27 million of the total project costs of the BSCWSD water resource recovery facility expansion and upgrade project and the BSCWSD canyon area lift station, forced main and reuse pipeline project – not to exceed $12 million.
It is crunch time for the BSCWSD with dwindling capacity in the treatment plant. “If Resort Tax wasn’t helping on this it would be 100% paid for by property tax and sewer rates,” Resort Tax Chairman Kevin Germain said in an earlier interview. Bringing the canyon into the fold is viewed by board members as a move toward better protecting the Gallatin River, as there is currently no centralized system and rather an assortment of septic systems – with some being antiquated. The canyon lift station would be near the intersection of Hwy. 191 and Hwy 64 and would include two pipelines. Of those pipelines, one would serve as a wastewater forcemain bringing grey water from the Canyon Area up the 64 corridor to the [treatment facility] and the second would be a pipeline to bring “highly treated effluent to the Canyon Area for groundwater discharge/recharge/disposal,” according to a joint subcommittee recommendation.The 1% resort tax increase would be an additional tax on the goods and services already taxed through the current Resort Tax – or an increase from 3-4% – which primarily targets items purchased by tourists, but may overlap with items that locals purchase, Resort Tax regional manager Daniel Bierschwale explained. “The entire goal of RT is to find a funding mechanism that has the tourism dollars being taxed and those tax dollars reinvested in capital and infrastructure projects within the community, among other things,” he said. Ballot and notice language is in the works as well as educational materials for the public that will be printed in local publications.