BSRAD board and Resort Tax staff meet for last time in 2021

Community Forum feedback, audit comes back clean, and BASE community center tour

L ast week the BSRAD board members and staff came together for their monthly meeting for Resort Tax to discuss the successes and feedback form the Community Forum, listen to the results of an audit, get an update from BSCHT on the Riverview project and Rent Local program, and heard about how BASE—the new community center currently under construction in Big Sky’s town center—is coming along.

Morgan Scarr, a representative of the accounting firm Holmes and Turner, broke down the external audit for the board and staff into digestible pieces to start off the meeting. First and foremost, Scarr explained, the audit came back clean. The Resort Tax will finish the 2021 fiscal year with funds shy of $10 million. 

Scarr did point out a mistake that emerged from a misstatement in 2020. A sum of $390,000 to Big Sky Community Housing Trust was written off incorrectly. Board member Ciara Wolfe, seeking clarification, asked where the money ended up. Scarr explained it was written off in the 2020 audit and then didn’t get detected until recently. There appeared to be no consequences for this mistake— the main issue was it was not caught in a timely manner.

Resort Tax Executive Director, Daniel Bierschwale, provided an overview of the first BSRAD CommnUNITY Forum hosted at the Wilson Hotel on Oct. 26 which saw about 40 different local organizations attend. The format for the evening, Bierschwale explained, was presentation and exhibit style.

The goal for the three hour long meet and greet—which sprung up after feedback from the community in the spring of 2021—was to provide a basic understanding of what’s going on in Big Sky and for ways to get involved.

Feedback from the CommUNITY Forum was mainly positive or neutral. Perhaps hosting the event in a larger space, changing the time of year, or cutting down on the length were the biggest takeaways for next year.

Brad Niva, the new Executive Director for Big Sky Chamber of Commerce (BSCC), suggested to the board and staff coordinating on a master calendar. Niva pointed out the BSCC hosted a large gathering called the Community Builders Forum on Sept. 30 and then 28 days later BSRAD hosted their own Community Forum at the Wilson Hotel. Attendees could be feeling stretched by all the events, a kind of “event fatigue,” explained Niva.

Next up, Laura Seyfang of Big Sky Community Housing Trust (BSCHT) presented to the board and staff on both the Rvierview Apartment project and the Rent Local program. As of the Oct. 18 award deadline, almost a month ago, the BSCHT did not receive a $6.7 million dollar grant from the Montana Board of Housing to pursue the Riverview project.

However, in an update released earlier this week, Seyfang announced the BSCHT had surprisingly received the $6.7 million dollar grant for Riverview from the Montana Board of Housing on Nov. 15, 2021. This reversal from the Montana Board of Housing comes as a surprise. The Lone Peak Lookout will be following this story closely with more to report on in next week’s edition.

In other news, Seyfang also explained how the Rental Local program is working to solve short term housing solutions in the Big Sky community. “We have a lot of vacant homes that are not utilized strongly... [The] Rent Local program is all about trying to assist owners to find great local tenants for renting long term to people in Big Sky.” By adding a cash incentive to combat the short-term Airbnb market, the novel program added 12 units in 12 weeks earlier this year.

Board member Wolfe questioned: “How as a community are we looking to fund this long term?” Seyfang responded: “I personally think this is not a forever program. At this point I am saying it's 2.5 years because there is a solution coming after this which is permanent.”

To wrap up the meeting, Whitney Montgomery, the new Chief Executive Officer for Big Sky Community Organization (BSCO), presented on the still under construction BASE community center which is set to open in Big Sky’s town center in March 2022. Following an overview of the new facility--which will include a climbing wall, basketball court, and workout space—Montgomery led the board and staff on a tour of BASE.

The BSCO will be offering free tours of the new BASE community center to the public every Friday at 3:30 p.m. Membership fees for BASE will be released and available for purchase around mid-December.

The next monthly BSRAD board meeting, which primarily covers the ongoings of Resort Tax funds, will not take place until after the new year in January 2022. The Resort Tax started in 1992. It was created largely to deal with the increased pressure of tourism on infrastructure and services in Big Sky. Each business within the district pays a 4% tax on all luxury goods and services considered not essential for life. The five-member board oversees the allocation of these funds.

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