September’s Big Sky Resort Area District (BSRAD) meeting

Scoring system upgrades, housing, and Post Office designation discussed at Sept. meeting

The Big Sky Resort Tax, which started in 1992 and is composed of over 700 local businesses, helps to pump the financial lifeblood of the Big Sky community. Each business within the district pays a 4% tax on all luxury goods and services considered not essential for life. Overseeing the allocation of these funds is a locally elected board (BSRAD) made up of five members and four staff. Board members serve a four-year term and must live within the district. The resort tax was created largely to deal with the increased pressure of tourism on infrastructure and services in Big Sky.

Local organizations may apply for funding that fit the strategic goals and critical needs of the community during allocation cycles. Over the past two decades, $75 million dollars have been awarded within the Big Sky community. In 2021, for example, the Resort Tax is projected to bring in a total of $13 million dollars in collections for the year. This milestone is a result of the 3% to 4% tax increase which the community voted on earlier in 2021, according to Daniel Bierschwale, the Executive Director of the Resort Tax.

For the board’s most recent meeting, which was held on Sept. 8, the discussion revolved around the new updates to the TIGER grant, the finalization of the scoring system for the funding review process with an eye towards deliverables, the continued need for housing growth within the community and what options were available, covid-19 testing and vaccine encouragement, and the potential U.S. Post Office expansion.

The $10.3 million dollar TIGER grant was awarded to Big Sky in 2017 by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to support major infrastructure challenges along MT 64 and US 191 highways. After some unexpected delays, in May of 2021, the lone Sanderson Stewart bid for the project came back $3 million dollars over budget.

Bierschwale explained, “We got pretty engaged with the county related to the TIGER grant...the survey that was distributed throughout the community was seemingly designed with the intent of being able to pull out portions of the project in the event that the overall bid does not come back at budget... every single one of the components of this project are critically important for the community. Simply going through and slicing out options of the overall project scope is not the right approach, and we seek to look towards a solution that would complete the entirety of the project.”

One of the main issues currently tied into the TIGER grant is related to housing. “The turn signals that are happening at Powderlight are connected to a workforce housing project which is also critically important to the community... Right now, the Powderlight turn lanes are in discussion and negotiation with the county for potentially being pulled out and being funded privately,” said Bierschwale. As of this week, the Lone Mountain Land Company (LMLC) will privately fund the $1.3 million dollar project on the MT 64 turn signals. This will allow the approximately 400-450 bed Powderlight Subdivision project, which is owned by LMLC, to move forward.

The Big Sky Resort Area District (BSRAD) board and staff also dived into holding funding applicants accountable to measurable standards in terms of deliverables, discussed tweaks for the new scoring system, and talked about the Big Sky Relief Update in relation to Covid-19. Conversation also circled back to the ongoing need for federal post office designation in Big Sky. This would ultimately allow more resources and mailboxes to fit the growing needs of the community. The process is currently tied up in government procedures, but Senator Steve Daines has recently been invited to help. The next BSRAD meeting is scheduled for Oct. 13, 2021.

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