Some city assessments going up, but some are staying steady and one going down

As the city makes its annual budget and assessment rates some are actually holding steady this year and one is decreasing for Great Falls residents.

The major city assessments are:

  • General Boulevard District, 7 percent increase
  • Portage Meadows maintenance, no increase
  • Streets assessment, no increase
  • Lighting district, 1 percent decrease

A division of the city Park and Recreation Department maintains the more than 15,000 trees in the boulevard district and services include pruning, removal and planting of trees, leaf pickup and streetscape design.

To determine the assessment rate, the city calculates actual and anticipated expenses, future projects, goals and objectives of the department.

The assessment is $0.010575 per square foot, for a total of $375,305, for an assessment of $79.31 for an average size lot of 7,500 square feet. That’s an annual increase of $5.18 for the average sized lot.

The last boulevard district increase was 10 percent in fiscal year 2016. The boulevard district was created in 1946.

GF boulevard district boundary

The Portage Meadows assessment was created in 1977 through a special improvement maintenance district for maintaining the Green Belt of the housing area. The funds cover the costs of materials, snow removal labor, water, mowing labor, fertilizer costs and labor, aerification labor and tree pruning, which was part of the original planned unit development.

No increase is proposed for the district and the assessment is $0.069002 per square foot, a total of $58,079, or $310.58 for an average lot of 4,501 square feet.

portage meadows district

The Street Maintenance District assessment covers the cost of maintaining about 383 miles of streets and alleys within the city limits. Maintenance consists of pavement rehabilitation and restoration, street cleaning, snow and ice removal, alley maintenance and the nuisance weed program. Traffic operations are also funded through the Street Division of Public Works and that work includes maintenance of all roadway signs, signals and pavement markings.

Because the increased fuel tax is generating more transportation related revenue for the city, no increase is proposed to the street assessment. The last increase was 10 percent in fiscal year 2016.

The assessment is $0.014702 per square foot for a total of $4,535,592 and makes an annual assessment of $110.27 for an average size lot of 7,500 square feet.

To calculate the assessment, the city uses the assessable area by square footage caps under state law.

The four options are:

  • Residential-Square footage caps per parcel of 12,000 square feet for residential property and properties categorized as non-profit/cemetery organizations 501(c)(13) as defined by the Internal Revenue Code.
  • Downtown District-defined as being within an area bounded on the north by Third Alley North, on the south by Third Alley South, on the east by Tenth Street, and on the west by Park Drive. Any properties located in this area, with a designated residential land use code of 111, 112 and 114, shall be excluded from the District and assessed as part of the Residential District.
  • Mixed-Use-consists of property equal to or greater than 112,000 square feet but less than 50 percent commercially developed. The city planning department identifies these properties and they are assessed half at the commercial rate and half a the the capped residential rate.
  • Commercial-One million square foot cap for all other property. The 1 million square foot cap for all other property encourages large green areas on some private properties within the City.

Lighting district assessments also get set annually and there are 27 Special Improvement Lighting Districts in the city with about 9,429 roadway lights. Ninety-seven percent of the lights are owned by Northwestern Energy and the city pays a maintenance fee for the lights plus a fee that covers the electrical transmission and distribution.

The electrical supply for the street lights is furnished by Talen Treasure State and the remaining 3 percent of roadway lighting is city-owned.

Funds from the lighting district assessments maintain the light poles and electrical current throughout the year.

The assessment this year is $1,159,589 and is a 1 percent decrease from last year since the cash balances for the lighting districts are adequate to cover operational costs this year. Since 2013-2014, the annual assessment has decreased from $1,976,427 that year with 26 districts.