Resort tax talk

Remittance increases and a possible attempt to change legislation
Resort tax fast facts: Resort tax collections in Big Sky have been growing by 15 percent a year for the past five years: $3.1 million was collected in 2013 and $6.7 million in 2017.

Highlights of the December 12 Big Sky Resort Area Tax District board meeting include fees for paper remittances, changes in staffing structure and developments in resort tax legislation. We know not everyone can make these meetings, so here’s a rundown on what was covered.

Paper remittance fee begins Feb. 1

There was board approval of a $25 fee for taxes paid by paper or by not using the online payment system, MUNIRevs. Kristin Drain, current administrative officer and future tax revenue manager of Big Sky Resort Area Tax District later explained that the online payment system expedites the process, so it was beneficial to incentivize its use in tax collections.

Sarah Blechta, board treasurer, said this discussion isn’t new.

“We’ve been talking about this,” she said, the board conferring that online payment system has been in place for a year and a half.

Chairperson Kevin Germain questioned the timing, feeling that appropriate notice needed to be provided as there are so many people doing paper remittances. To make the decision December 12 and make it effective January 1 would be unfair, he explained.

“I’m all for this policy, I just want to make sure people have enough notice and they’re not scrambling,” he said.

There was unanimous board approval of an amended motion to change the date for compliance from January 1 to February 1 – after that time the $25 fee for paper remittance will be implemented.

Tax district employment opportunities

Drain wanted to make sure the public was aware of job opportunities with the Big Sky Resort Area tax district. “We are revolutionizing our office structure here,” she said in later conversation.

Job postings are now available on the website for a district manager and also an administrative assistant.

According to the website, the ideal candidate for the district manager position will be “a collaborator with infrastructure, economic and tourism planning, funding and development experience.”

Additionally, the board would like someone with experience in local government or similar relevant experience in a mountain ski resort community. The salary range for the position is $110-135,000 with a resume deadline of January 11, 2019.

The administrative assistant position pays between $15-18 per hour and is 15-20 hours per week. The website outlines that it is not a remote position; all work will take place in the Big Sky office, with the ideal candidate being comfortable with “organization, planning, research and outreach.”

Legislation to increase taxes

A discussion item for the meeting – which is now listed as an action item for the December 21 meeting – is a proposed move with legislation to increase the resort tax amount from three to four percent. There’s no bill yet. The board is deciding if the Big Sky Resort Tax district should be a part of the effort.

“If there’s no bill [drafted by the December 21 meeting] we may contribute some money to get the process going, but we may wait to jump in until we know what the bill says,” Drain explained.

Blechta said she is encouraged that there are other communities willing to put forth monetary support of the effort.

Board director Mike Sholtz said it will be a matter of drafting the law so that it is specific enough and yet broad enough for all participating communities.

“We absolutely need to be involved in the drafting of this legislation. Once that is drafted it is on rails and it is headed somewhere. And if we want it done right from the perspective of what we have, we absolutely have to be at the table at that point,” board member Steve Johnson said.

Dr. Alan Shaw made use of public comment to express his agreement with Johnson that the board needs to be an active participant in drafting the legislation.

Taylor Middleton, Big Sky Resort’s general manager, began by applauding the board for efforts the last few years to collect uncollected taxes “within the scope of existing law.”

“I would propose that there is still work to be done for this board and this community in that arena,” Middleton said. “Let’s collect all we can collect with the laws as they are currently written.”

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