Great Falls Continues Discussions on Proposed Fiscal Year 2022 Budget




The Great Falls City Commission met again on Tuesday afternoon to continue discussions on the proposed budget for fiscal 2022 with the city’s finance department.

The fiscal year 2022 budget as forwarded to the committee centers on economic recovery as the city recovers from the impact of COVID-19. All commissioners expressed support for the budget as proposed, which is now available on the website of the Ministry of Finance, although some commissioners expressed concerns about funds considered “at risk” and funding for the Ministry of Finance. police and firefighters.

City commissioner Mary Sheehy Moe spoke of her experience on several city councils, the longest she said was her time on the Parking Commission. Parking was one of seven funds listed as “at risk” in the budget, meaning these are funds that have a negative fund balance or a projected negative fund balance. Moe said the biggest problem facing parking is that the city has “too many parking lots.”

“We have the ability with these funds coming in for infrastructure to do one of two things, we can shave off one of them,” Moe said, speaking of federal dollars coming into the city. “Or to modernize them both so that they are really attractive. And if we don’t, they will continue to be money pits for the city, because people don’t want to use them because they don’t see them as safe.

Moe also referred to a post she posted on Facebook that morning, discussing growing up with accessible and affordable recreation opportunities and stressing her importance as an asset to the community, as opposed to a commercial enterprise. . She also referred to data comparing Montana public libraries and said Great Falls is at the bottom of the list for physical records per resident as well as the rate of full-time employee per resident.

Commissioner Rick Tryon asked how the city planned to cover rising costs due to inflation like fuel if the proposed budget did not include a tax increase, asking if it was correct that the city would get a tax increase. income due to the increase in property appraisal.

Chief Financial Officer Melissa Kinzler said the revenues would not increase the revenues of many of the city’s funds.

“We have to absorb these increased costs by postponing maintenance, by doing other things that offset some of these increased costs in their budget,” Kinzler said. “Newly taxable property is the only thing that will constitute new income in the general fund. “

Tryon asked if, by not using the permissive medical tax or the inflationary tax, was the city simply “kicking the box”.

“We always kick the road in any budget we make,” said City Manager Greg Doyon. “There’s always an abundance of needs so it’s about trying to prioritize with the resources you have and quite frankly I don’t think we would be able to go another year without taking the inflation factor. or do a permissive medical examination. sample.”

The permissive medical levy is a tax for increasing health insurance premiums, as described in previous levy resolutions. The Montana Code Annotated describes the inflation factor as half the average inflation rate for the previous three years plus the property tax assessed for that year. The total of unused tax increases stands at $ 229,124, according to the presentation of the Department of Finance.

Doyon said the city is working within the parameters of the statewide property tax cap and the city’s limited growth values, and doing its best. Doyon also highlighted the impact of COVID-19 on the reasons “at risk” funds were in trouble.

Commissioner Owen Robinson also checked with Kinzler that just because the city postponed the permissive medical tax and the two-year inflation factor doesn’t mean the city will compensate for this all at once, which Kinzler has confirmed.

Commissioners Robinson and Tracy Houck expressed concern over what they saw as insufficient funding for public safety at $ 27.7 million. This money is intended for public safety and is the second largest public works fund, which includes water, sewage and sanitation.

Mayor Bob Kelly said the city has always been very conservative with fund balances for a “rainy day”.

“Well guess what, it’s been raining for about 18 months,” Kelly said in reference to the pandemic. “For people who are concerned about the lack of funding for critical areas that we believe need to be funded this year, I ask for their patience. ”

Kelly said it has yet to be decided how federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) and the US Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will be spent and they might help alleviate some of the worries people might have. now.

The next steps, as outlined in the presentation, are a possible working session on July 6 where they will schedule the budget hearing for July 20 with the option for the community to testify for or against the proposed budget. The committee will decide at this meeting whether or not to adopt the budget.

Doyon said he hopes the commission will hear from the Revenue Department with information on assessed values ​​by their Aug. 16 meeting so they can pass a resolution on the Mill Levy.

Nicole Girten is a government watch reporter for the Great Falls Tribune. You can email him at ngirten@greatfallstribune.com. To support coverage of Great Falls and Cascade County, subscribe to the Tribune by clicking the “Subscribe” link at the top of the page.



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