City leaders set to discuss public safety levy

2014-08-26T17:06:00Z 2014-09-19T13:51:03Z City leaders set to discuss public safety levyBy MIKE FERGUSON mferguson@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

The proposed public safety mill levy will be at the heart of upcoming Billings City Council Community Conversations to be held next month.

City officials and Todd Buchanan, a businessman who’s volunteered to help spearhead presentations on the levy proposal, will appear at the community conversations on the proposed levy, which Billings voters will decide on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The proposed levy will cost the owner of a $200,000 home an additional $31 per year in property taxes during 2015-16, rising to $325 per year by 2025-26.

City Administrator Tina Volek said police and fire calls are up by more than 32 percent in the past five years, and the city’s population continues to grow by about 1.5 percent per year.

The Billings City Charter caps the tax levy on real and personal property that may be collected for the general fund at 74 mills. Additional funds to operate public safety departments — police, fire and dispatch — have come from levy increases approved by the voters in 1998 and 2004.

The newest levy would begin in 2015-16 at 12 mills and would raise about $2 million.

City reserves are sufficient to cover public safety shortfalls into the 2017-18 fiscal year.

In 2024-25, 125 mills would be levied under the proposal, producing about $22.8 million.

City officials have said that a revenue freeze would require police, fire and dispatch personnel cuts beginning in 2016-17. Reductions during the following three years could be as many as 65 employees.

Places and times for the community conversations are:

7-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9, at the Oasis Water Park meeting room, 543 Aronson Ave.

11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 10, at Valley Federal Credit Union, 207 N. 28th St., on the lower level by the Back Porch Deli. Bring a sack lunch or purchase lunch there.

7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 10, at Little Horn State Bank, 2900 Central Ave.

7-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11, at the Southside Senior Center, 901 S. 30th St.

For more information about community conversations, visit the city’s website, www.ci.billings.mt.us. Or contact Liz Kampa-Weatherwax at kampal@ci.billings.mt.us or 406-657-8216.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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