City Administrator Chris Kulkuski stated in the FY 2021 Proposed Budget, “The city of Billings Charter has a ‘hard mill levy cap’ that relies on voter approved mill levy increases or the creation of special districts.” He states, “expenses are expected to outpace the future year’s growth in revenues. This is the result of a number of issues, including the loss of approximately $2.4 million annually in franchise fee revenue and significant increases in police officers and firefighters hired in FY17 and FY18, combined with limited vacancy savings.” T
To increase revenue without a voter approved mill levy, he recommends shifting “$3.5 million in parks, recreation, cemetery and public lands out of the GF and over to Park District One.” This increases the park district fee which the owner of a $211,0000 home pays from $27.53 to $87.38.
What does this increase pay for? The city adds four administrators in the city manager’s office at a cost of more than $1.1 million and an asset coordinator in the Parks Department at an annual cost of $105,028. Planning adds a plumbing inspector and the legal department gains a prosecutor. Funds for the DUI Court expire in September 2020; the city budget does not include $120,000 for this widely publicized and effective drug court.
I do not see evidence that spending aligns with the publicized council priority of public safety. The city behavior suggests they do not trust that citizens will buy the budget they want to sell and the city will charge it.
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