The Colter Pass, Cooke City, Silver Gate Area Resort Tax
This information about the resort tax is a courtesy to educate the community and those interested individuals about the history of the tax. This is general information on how resort tax has been used in our Community. The Community Council's involvement is not as a formal committee or advisory board of the Resort Tax The Council's interest is to be involved for Community representation. The Council has worked with organizations and/or individuals whom fit the mission of the Council to get resort tax for their projects. The established reputable Council attempts to communicate needs of the Community via public meetings and coordination with Park County Commissioners. The organizations who utilized the Community Council for resort tax applications have been the Cooke City EMS/S&R, Recreation Site (softball field), and Silver Gate Park.
A History of the Resort Tax
Colter Pass, Cooke City and the Silver Gate area are non-incorporated communities with a population of approximately 70 year round residents. The communities have no assets or revenue to develop or improve the area; therefore, it became obvious as a tourism industry that the communities could solve this with a resort tax. The resort tax would become the income needed by the Community to accomplish several projects needed in the area.
As early as 2002, the Resort Tax process began with the Colter Pass, Cooke City, Silver Gate Chamber of Commerce. They took the lead on the research, process, consulted with others and set forth with education to the Communities. The Chamber had a few members that became a Resort Tax Committee led by Suzy Hahn, President Chamber of Commerce. The Northern Rocky Mountain RC&D, (Resource Conservation & Development), Staff from RC&D included Cynthia Evans & Josh Kellar. RC&D. Park County Commissioners, with Commissioner Dick Murphy’s as lead support commissioner. The RC&D saw a need for further tourist development as they established the designation of the Beartooth Highway as an “All American Road”. The Corridor Management Plan for this All American Road included the Community Building to provide restrooms & area History. This status qualified the Community for several different options of grant funding. All of these entities networked through the entire process.
A Community implementing resort tax collection is required to obtain a “resort area designation” from the MT Department of Commerce. July 14, 2003 a letter was written to them to request this approval. Sept. 24, 2004, the MT Dept. of Commerce had completed their study and we received our resort tax area designation.
Next Step: Educate and win the support of the Community and its registered voters!
The Chamber needed all the information they could provide to the community (registered voters) to win the resort tax vote! The Chamber consulted with other non-incorporated resort tax areas or districts to gather all information possible on their process of establishing the resort tax. Red Lodge and Whitefish appeared to be the closest in population & businesses to estimate Cooke City would possibly bring in 100,000 year resort tax. The Chamber by 2002 had transitioned the led of the resort tax project to the Community Council. The Council President, Suzy Hahn (resigned from the Chamber to lead the Community Council) and the resort tax committee had public meetings, developed brochures to educate everyone involved with the resort tax collection. Red Lodge City Council Man, Rod Profit attended a public meeting in Cooke City to answer questions on how the resort tax has worked in Red Lodge.
The Chamber had projects to support the need of the resort tax. The priority project included 2 Phases: Phase 1, a building to house public restrooms, chamber/visitor center, meeting room, historical museum. Phase 2, a new Fire hall, EMS, Search & Rescue, club meeting rooms and a groomer building/garage. The Chamber had an opportunity to purchase adjoining property to the original fire hall building, EMS/S&R building and make these several lots all community properties.
The Chamber’s well established organization realized that their status as a 501 (C) 6 would not legally qualify as the non-profit organization needed to allow all aspects of fundraising, as well as community representation, (not just business relationship) and that the community would need a 501 C 3 status organization to succeed. Meanwhile, the Chamber formed a subdivision, Cooke City Community Council (CCCC) with its goals being a non-profit 501 C (3) fundraising & implement & support of local community projects!
The Council continued to pursue grants to purchase property, design the buildings and prepare the Communities for the resort tax!
As early as 2003 the CCCC started direct donor solicitation as well as fundraisers such as luaus, fish fry, raffles, auctions, etc.
The resort tax process has been amazing since 2006 collections. The Community has open meetings prior to the application to discuss their possible needs and what that organization will request for funds. The public meetings have lots of discussions with questions directed to the organization asking for the funds to allow full understanding of the request and its purpose. Then the applications are compiled and presented to the Commissioners and community. The Commissioners review the application details and at the next monthly meeting they appropriate funds to the allocations. The Community projects accomplished with this collection of tax that comes directly to our Community is the only way projects of any cost are obtained as well as maintained.