Attorney Kim Beatty gestures toward the working redlined document shown on the screen. The board was able to edit section by section. PHOTO BY JANA BOUNDS

Tackling the tedious

Resort Tax wades through lengthy workshop to revamp ordinance

Big Sky Resort Area District Board (BSRAD) had a special meeting on Sept. 20 to work through the amendment of the current taxability ordinance – Ordinance 98-01 to include all alcohol and tobacco sold in the district and to clean-up ambiguous language within the ordinance.  

Brad Webb, facilitator, noted that the previous meeting led to a circular conversation and he would be “providing a framework or structure to move things forward.”

The elephant in the room, he said, was definitions. 

The board worked through the document highlighting the topics that required extensive discussion for better definition: things like tourist and transient resident, enumerated establishments, luxuries, medical supplies and services and necessities of life. 

To expedite the process many board members resorted to simply flashing a thumbs-up to Webb to proceed when there was minimal debate. 

The board inched toward completing red-lining the document and giving attorney Kim Beatty, board legal counsel, enough guidance to finish the amending process. 

The goal, as she stated, was to “set forth with a little bit more clarity what you are taxing and what you are not taxing.” 

“What was the ordinance originally designed to do? There are various opinions out there. Focus on how do you want to change it – if at all,” she addressed the board at the beginning of the meeting. “I’ve also heard very strongly that we need to comply with Mont. statute. Generally speaking, your ordinance does comply with the code and it is my job to make sure we continue to do that.”  

Big Sky Community Organization chief executive officer Ciara Wolfe took her place at the board for the first time – occupying the seat formerly held by Mike Scholz. 

One topic of extensive discussion was the idea that every business that operates in Big Sky should register with Resort Tax, even if they do not seem to be required to remit resort tax. 

Wolfe explained that she believes that is a fair request. 

Resort Tax secretary Buz Davis said there have been instances where Resort Tax has done audits businesses were unaware of their responsibility to pay resort tax and suddenly had to catch-up on what they owed, sometimes owing several years of taxes. 

“I don’t want this to sound like we are trying to penalize people, what we are really trying to do is be proactive so that businesses know what is expected of them,” Davis said. 

Resort Tax district manager Daniel Bierschwale suggested that supplemental materials for businesses would be helpful. 

Candace Carr Strauss, president of the Chamber of Commerce was present and keenly focused on how the changes to the ordinance would impact area businesses. Board discussion which later included Carr Strauss highlighted the national move toward tax transparency on receipts. 

Consensus was eventually found with definitions. Considering the level of red-lining, the board requested to look over a clean copy before the first reading. 

The goal is to have the first reading on Oct. 9.

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