ENTERPRISE EDITORIAL: Resort tax proving to be a boon for Gardiner

When Gardiner voters approved a 3 percent resort tax in 2014, some wondered just how the whole process would play out.

Some businesses continue to disagree with the new tax.

But, so far, the Gardiner resort tax appears to be a boon and the process of collecting and distributing the cash seems to be a relatively smooth process for all involved.

And the Gardiner resort tax board should be commended for being conscientious, well organized and transparent about the whole process in which organizations apply for the money and ultimately the distribution of the money. Meanwhile, the board is also working to educate business owners and others in the community about all aspects of the resort tax. 

And that’s exactly how a government entity tasked with collecting and distributing taxpayer money should operate.

As Gardiner business owner and resort tax board member Richard Parks explained to The Livingston Enterprise in a Thursday Page 1 article, the tax ­— collected from June 1 to Sept. 30 — helps offset funding for projects that would otherwise be paid for by Gardiner taxpayers.

In other words, the flood of tourists that arrive every year pay a bit more during their time in Gardiner — in the form of a 3 percent resort tax — to help pay for things such as infrastructure improvements and community development projects.

In the last few years, the resort tax has funded dozens of projects in Gardiner, including big-ticket water and sewer improvements, 24-hour public bathrooms in the visitor’s center, hydrant replacements, flagpoles, lighting, sidewalks, bleachers, equipment for Gateway Hose Company Fire & Ambulance, stage curtains at the Gardiner School, and the list goes on.

On Dec. 11, the resort tax board is scheduled to meet to allocate the next round of funding from the tax. This year, eight organizations are seeking funding for projects from the $583,000 that the district collected this year. Of that amount, the board plans to distribute about $467,000. The proposed projects, once again, would help improve Gardiner schools as well as the infrastructure that residents use throughout the year, not just during summer months when the wave of tourists descends on the community.

“We’ve done some important work for the town with just three years under our belt,” Parks told The Enterprise on Thursday. “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.”

Given the tight budgets of Park County coffers, the resort tax is helping to offset the costs of hosting hundreds of thousands of guests from around the world each year, allowing Gardiner to reap some benefits from serving as a gateway to our first national park.

The Dec. 11 resort tax board meeting kicks off at 7 p.m. at the Gardiner Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center. The meeting is open to the public.

— Justin Post
Enterprise Managing Editor