Yellowstone County voters approved a public safety levy Tuesday.
The levy, which will raise an additional $2.75 million annually, had a roughly 51-49 percent 'yes' margin with all precincts reporting. The difference was a little more than 1,000 votes.
Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito pushed for the levy to help sustain current operations.
“The reality is this is just to keep things going,” he said. “If (the result) holds up, I’m very grateful that we are given this to be able to run the office.”
The levy increase will be perpetual. The annual cost of the increase on a home valued at $100,000 would be $10.80, while the cost of the increase on a home valued at $200,000 would be $21.60.
The current four-mill levy passed in 2000 raises about $1.45 million.
The county has added 10 full-time positions in the past 10 years, with six of those positions approved in the past six months. The new jobs include two attorneys, three legal assistants and a victim witness coordinator.
Officials said the office would have added two more staff in the 2018 budget if there had been money and space available. The office has 48 staff, including the six new positions, funded by the county attorney’s budget.
When the public safety levy was passed in 2000, it raised about $660,000 a year. The tax revenue from the levy has increased over the years mainly from new construction and growth. Back then, the office had about 32 employees and a budget of about $2 million. The 2018 budget is more than $5 million.
The 2017 Legislature approved two additional district court judges for the 13th Judicial District, which is Yellowstone County, to help ease the caseload of the district’s six judges. About 20 percent of the approximately 55,000 cases filed annually in district court are in the 13th District, which is the busiest in the state.
Additional judges mean more county attorney staffing in court for hearings and more time to prepare the calendars, which for law and motion can run anywhere from two to 15 pages.
“I’ve got to put people in courtrooms,” Twito previously said.