Park district protest period now closed, Great Falls commission to discuss on Tuesday
The protest period for the proposed park district closed Aug. 9 and the unofficial tally of the opposition is 21.3 percent.
The final count is being certified and city staff will present the final numbers during the City Commission meeting on Tuesday.
A public hearing on a resolution to create the district was scheduled for Aug. 15, but that was scheduled earlier in the process and since opposition has exceeded the 10 percent threshold, staff is requesting that the motion be denied at this time and for the commission to give staff direction on how to proceed with the process.
The proposed park district would be city-wide and would come with a $2,267,796 annual assessment for the first three years. The assessment would be based on taxable valuable of property in Great Falls and for a property with a $100,000 taxable value, the assessment would be $43.28 annually, or $3.61 per month.
About 12,500 properties fall into the $100,000 to $199,000 market value range within the city limits, including residential, commercial, multifamily and industrial lots. That’s an estimate from the city based on data from the Department of Revenue.
The unofficial count as of Thursday, Aug. 10, was 5,614 forms had been returned and the opposition was 21.3 percent, but that’s a weighted vote and one major company accounted for a large chunk of the opposition, according to city staff.
The city mailed 21,701 forms to Great Falls property owners on June 9 and property owners who didn’t receive forms or had thrown theirs away thinking it was junk mail could pick up new forms at city offices or simply write their opposition on a piece of paper.
The process to create a park district is governed by state law and allows the City Commission to create a district is the protest is under 10 percent. It the protest is between 10 and 50 percent, the commission can chose to send the proposal to the May ballot, or do nothing.
Should the commission chose to send the matter to the ballot, they’ll need to pass a resolution by Feb. 20, 2018. The May election is the regular school election and all qualified resident electors may vote on the park district regardless of whether they own property in the city that would be subject to the assessment.
Several commissioners have indicated publicly that they want to send the park district question to the ballot to let the residents of Great Falls decide whether it should go forward.