Bozeman Mayor Cyndy Andrus considered using money from the city’s Tourism Business Improvement District, which mainly goes toward marketing efforts, for tourism-related infrastructure projects.

Through the district, the city’s 30 hotels collect a $2 per night fee from each of their rooms, bringing in about $1.2 million annually. In the nine years since the district was created, the money has financed marketing campaigns, provided airline guarantees and offered grants to help local organizations host events.

In recent months, Andrus proposed shifting 50% of the district’s money to projects like a new field at the Bozeman Sports Park.

“It was about finding a way to make our dollars go a little further,” Andrus said.

Meanwhile, Daryl Schliem, executive director of the district’s board, asked the county to take over the district, which would mean Andrus’ idea could not be implemented.

“(Andrus’ proposal) would surprise me because, in the last nine years, the city has never altered the budget we’ve proposed,” said Schliem, who is also president of the Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve been a very unified board and unified with the (city) commission, so I’m not sure where the mayor is coming from.”

Schliem said Andrus’ proposal wasn’t the reason he asked the county to take over the district. Instead, he said hotels in the county expressed interest in joining the district and the district board wanted to expand its regional efforts to attract tourists.

“This story is just about us changing banks,” he said.

He added that he never received a formal request or specifics from the city regarding Andrus’ proposal but was aware the city was thinking about using some district funds for tourism-related infrastructure.

If the city had made a formal request, Schliem said he would have brought it to the rest of the district’s board, which likely would have suggested the city fill out a grant application for each project, just like other groups do for their requests.

He said the district’s efforts — from paying for marketing to renting fields — allow organizations to focus their funding on other areas, which could include infrastructure. He added the district brings in tourists who pay local taxes that also can be used for infrastructure.

However, Andrus said the city lacks tools for funding infrastructure projects, especially after the failure of a local option sales tax during the legislative session. She added that reducing the district’s commitment to marketing likely wouldn’t have a significant impact on tourism because some of the state’s bed tax collections already go toward marketing.

The county is moving forward with plans to take over the district. In April, they declined a request from the city to meet about the district, saying there was no need to discuss it, and then they held their first formal meeting about the issue on Monday.

“We haven’t discussed it in much detail, but I’m sure we’ll manage it however the district board and hoteliers want,” said Gallatin County Commission Chairman Joe Skinner. “We’re more of just a bank for them and won’t be telling them how to use the funds.”

Perrin Stein can be reached at 406-582-2648 or at pstein@dailychronicle.com. Follow her on Twitter @PerrinStein.

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