Gardiner to distribute $583,000 in resort taxes

By: 
Liz Kearney

After a season of collecting its 3 percent resort tax, it’s time for Gardiner to divide up the proceeds. 

The resort tax board will meet Monday, Dec. 11 in Gardiner to make the final allocations. 

The district collected approximately $583,000 this year, board member and Gardiner business owner Richard Parks said Thursday. The average annual collection has been a little over $500,000 annually. This year’s collections were higher due to collecting some back taxes owed by business owners who filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of the tax. 

Tax receipts will probably fluctuate with seasonal events, such as this year’s solar eclipse, or “hiccups” in the national economy, Parks said. There’s also something of a learning curve still ongoing with business owners, such as those who offer vacation rentals by owner, who may not be aware they are responsible for paying both state lodging tax and local resort tax, Parks said. 

Of the $583,000, the board will appropriate about $467,000, Parks said.

Eight organizations submitted applications for a combined total of $676,056. The final distributions will be decided Dec. 11. Last year the board distributed $291,042. 

This year’s eight organizations and their projects are: 

• Bear Creek Council, $5,730 for a digital projector and screen for the Gardiner School multipurpose room. 

• Electric Peak Arts Council, $9,600, for various projects including Shakespeare in the Parks, youth and ukulele initiatives and a touring artist opportunity fund.

• Gardiner Park County Water and Sewer District, $80,000, to replace its cement asbestos water main and 420 feet of pipe. 

• Gardiner Chamber of Commerce, $18,000, to provide electricity to the Arch Park stage. Further requests are $3,718 for Park Street bear-resistant trash cans and public art wraps and $14,720 for visitor center carpeting. 

• Gardiner Public Schools requested $350,000 to replace the school’s roof, and in an unrelated project, asked for $4,760 for a fifth-grade Expedition Yellowstone trip. 

• Gardiner Snoopy Cooperative Preschool, $4,882, for summer camp programming. 

• Gateway Hose Company Fire and Ambulance, $80,000, for a 30 foot by 36 foot building addition to house a new ambulance and other equipment. 

• Greater Gardiner Community Council, $88,047, toward renovations for the Gardiner Community Center, which is the former Eagle’s Hall. The nonprofit also requested $16,599 for repairs to the historic Gardiner jail building. The building is no longer used as a jail. 

Town voters agreed to the tax in 2014, which is collected seasonally from June 1 to Sept. 30. The Montana Legislature, lobbied by an effort that began in West Yellowstone, passed resort tax legislation in the 1980s. Other tourist-based towns across the state followed suit over the years, including Red Lodge, Whitefish and Big Sky. 

Gardiner voters agreed to form a resort tax district that is overseen by an elected board. The board solicits and receives applications from eligible entities and decides how to distribute the tax proceeds. 

By ordinance, 45 percent of the collections are earmarked for property tax relief, visitor center operations and capital grant, district operations and a small reimbursement to the businesses that collect the tax. 

The remaining 55 percent is split between 50 percent for infrastructure and community development and 5 percent is dedicated to community services and cultural grants, according to the Gardiner Resort Area District’s website, www.gardinerresorttax.com. 

Funds over the past three years have been allocated to taxing entities such as the water and sewer district, Parks said. 

“We’ve done some important work for the town with just three years under our belt,” Parks said. “I’m not sure (taxpayers) realize how much pain we’re going to save them in fees and taxes to other taxing entities. Every year so far we’ve appropriated money to taxing entities that could have been on their water bill instead.” 

The Dec. 11 meeting to appropriate funds will be held at 7 p.m. in the Gardiner Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center. The meeting is open to the public, and public comments will be accepted. 

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Liz Kearney may be reached at lkearney@livent.net.