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A lawsuit filed Wednesday by six Billings residents seeks the elimination of the city's franchise fee on water, sewer and garbage service. The suit also seeks restitution for the more than 30,000 people who've been paying the fees.

LARRY MAYER, Gazette Staff

Budget hearings continue Tuesday with presentations on proposed 2018-19 budgets for four departments — human resources, the Billings Public Library, Billings Municipal Court and administration.

Tuesday’s hearing begins at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 220 N. 27th St.

Human Resources

While this department has an approximately $733,000 budget request for the coming year, some big-ticket city budget items are administered here, including about $10.5 million in anticipated health and prescription claims, another $400,000 in expected dental bills for the city’s 926 full-time employees, and about $1 million in liability insurance premiums.

Projects and challenges for the coming year include requests for proposal for a medical provider network, employee-assistance program and occupational health services; searching for a third-party administrator for health care; and implementing electronic timekeeping.

Library

In 2017, nearly 34,000 people attended about 1,600 programs held at the library, a 21-percent attendance boost over last year's total. Another nearly 8,700 attended events held by community organizations, down from last year's 9,800.

Area readers, listeners and viewers checked out more than 896,000 items, down nearly 2 percent from last year, and downloaded nearly 589,000 books, magazines and other material from the library’s website. More than 373,000 people made their way into the building, at 510 Broadway. That's about 1,000 more than last year's total.

The second-story computers were the target of many visitors. During the year the public computers logged nearly 99,000 sessions.

Library Director Gavin Woltjer estimates revenues for the coming year to be about $3.7 million, about 6 percent higher than the current year. That includes state reimbursements of about $436,000 and another $875,000 in county tax revenue. Library expenses are expected to be slightly under $3.7 million.

The library has two supplemental budget requests: about $21,000 for additional security guard service, and about $15,000 to demolish and replace dead landscaping.

Municipal Court

Judge Sheila Kolar anticipates a total court budget of nearly $1.5 million for the coming year. The court expects to collect about $1.7 million in fines, city surcharge and time payment fees; about $202,000 in money that goes to other agencies, including crime victim surcharges, police surcharges and technology surcharges; and about $139,000 in victim restitution.

The court’s workload continues its generally upward trajectory. The number of judge trials rose from 290 during 2016-17 to 347 to date this fiscal year, which ends June 30. The number of jury trials has increased from 131 last year to 159 to date this year. At nearly 26,000 hearings held through early May this year, last year’s 27,471 hearings seems ready to be eclipsed as well.

Administration

The 2018-19 budget for administration, the mayor and council, council contingency and non-departmental uses is nearly $760,000, about $112,000 less than the current year’s budget.

Since the retirement of former city administrator Tina Volek last fall, the former assistant city administrator, Bruce McCandless, has been installed in the top job, with part-time help from Wyeth Friday, the planning and community services director, until McCandless names the new assistant city administrator.

At about $285,000, the proposed budget for the mayor and council is down by about 21 percent from last year's approved amount.

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City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.