Results of a survey conducted last October identified affordable housing and economic opportunity as Bozeman’s most critical challenges for residents.

About 900 people participated in the “A Seat at the Table” initiative held at locations throughout Gallatin County last fall. Bozeman Area Community Foundation and nonprofit organization Future West facilitated the survey through conversations and online forms.

Jennifer Boyer is on the initiative’s steering committee and presented the survey findings to the Bozeman City Commission Monday night.

“At the heart of this initiative was a face-to-face conversation,” Boyer said.

“A Seat At The Table” conversations centered around three questions:

What do you love most about your community?

What are the most pressing challenges in your community?

What are your ideas for making the community better?

Montana State University’s business school compiled the data from the survey. Conversations took place from West Yellowstone to Amsterdam.

The results show that 75 percent of participants identified affordable housing as the most pressing issue in the area. Half of the participants said the community does not provide adequate opportunities for all. Concerns about local government planning and coordination ranked third on the list.

“A common topic of conversation was the need to expand current (social) services, and the need to add new services,” Boyer said.

Tanya Andreasen, neighborhoods coordinator for the city, said during the presentation that officials should use this data to make policy decisions.

According to the initiative’s website, it aimed to include voices from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Of the participants, 89 percent were white, 60 percent were female and 81 percent were college educated.

The feedback also provided ideas on how the city can generate more revenue.

Ideas focused on “growth paying its way.” Suggestions included paying for parking, a resort tax, a local sales tax, a new resident tax, recreation impact fees and a luxury tax.

“Participants shared diverse ideas on how to make our community a better place, and shared ideas on how to fund services to accomplish that,” Boyer said.

The 2019 Montana State Legislature killed a proposal to allow for a local option sales tax. Resort taxes are only permitted for towns with populations of 5,500 or below.

“A Seat at the Table” information and results can be found at atthetablegv.org.

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