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Bozeman’s wish list for the 2017 Montana Legislature, formally adopted by city commissioners Monday evening, focuses on a pair of dueling priorities: tax relief for city property owners and ways to fund infrastructure like streets and sewer lines.

Specifically, commissioners said, they’d love it if legislators would amend state law so they can ask city voters to approve a resort-style sales tax, which could lift some of Bozeman’s current property tax burden and replace it with a tax that’s shared by tourists and commuters who live outside city limits.

“We know what happened with the law and justice vote,” said Commissioner Chris Mehl. “The public is telling us loud and clear they want property tax relief.”

By putting 30 to 40 percent of the money raised by a sales tax toward property tax relief, Mehl said, he estimates a typical Bozeman family could end up paying less than they do currently.

Under current state law, voters in towns of 5,500 people or less can institute a resort tax, a sales tax capped at 3 percent, on establishments like hotels, bars and ski resorts.

Bozeman leaders, worried about funding street and other infrastructure projects as the city grows, have said in recent years they’d like legislators to give larger cities a similar option.

In an effort to support that and other legislative priorities, the city is spending $24,000 this year to hire a lobbyist, Aimee Grmoljez of law firm Crowley Fleck, for the legislative session, which runs from January until April.

City Manager Chris Kukulski said Monday he’s hoping to have Grmoljez focus on the city’s tax and infrastructure priorities. The city may also take a position on bills that involve issues like water law, utility regulations and land-use planning, he and others said.

Bozeman has put about $300 million into local infrastructure in the past 10 to 12 years, said Kukulski, adding that it easily has another $250 million — a quarter of a billion dollars — on its to-do list.

“We want to reduce property taxes and increase our investments in infrastructure,” Kukulski wrote in a commission briefing memo. “Because Bozeman is a regional trade center and hosts over 4,000,000 tourists annually, these two goals can be accomplished by shifting our tax burden from property owners to those who use the services provided by the city.”

“Most notably,” he added, “these visitors use our transportation and public safety services never paying one cent directly for them.”

In other legislative priorities, commissioners backed a set of resolutions adopted by the Montana League of Cities and Towns and endorsed an effort involving several cities and business groups that’s seeking greater state-level infrastructure funding.

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Eric Dietrich can be reached at 406-582-2628 or He is on Twitter at @eidietrich.

Eric Dietrich covers city government and health for the Chronicle.

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