Public hearing on sending park district to the ballot is Feb. 6

Tuesday’s City Commission meeting is the public hearing on sending the park district question to the May 8 ballot.

The park district as proposed is $1.5 million for the first three years, though the assessment rate must be set by the commission annually. The city is proposing a three-year budget and work plan but to be clear, the assessment must be approved annually, which includes an annual public hearing, as required by state law. That’s similar to how to city handles other assessments, including portage meadows, streets and the boulevard assessment.

Park district is on track to go to May 8 ballot for $1.5 million assessment

If approved voters on the May 8 ballot, the assessment would be based on taxable property values and would be about $22.92 annually for a $100,000 property.

To create a park district, state law requires that municipalities first send response forms to all those who own property within the proposed district boundary.

Options considered for park district include lower assessment rate, flat fee

Last summer, 21.6 percent of the forms were returned in opposition to the district, but about half that protest came from a single company.

Under state law, if more than 10 percent but less than 50 percent of the forms are returned in opposition, the commission may send the question to the ballot.

The protest form process was not a public vote.

Great Falls tax levy approved, commissioners direct staff to move forward with sending park district to May ballot

If the question is sent to the ballot, all registered voters in the city limits will be able to vote, as will owners of taxable property within the district, even if they live outside the city. For those property owners, the elections office is printing special ballots that contain just the park district question, but those voters must request ballots, according to the elections office.

The purpose of the park district, according to the city, is to provide maintenance and improvement of services for the Park and Recreation department. The Park and Rec Master Plan, which the city adopted in 2016, indicated about $12 million in deferred maintenance.

Park district back on agenda for first commission meeting of new year

Current funding doesn’t allow for adequate maintenance of facilities and parks, according to the city. There’s been no funding for capital improvements or major repairs in recent years. In the current fiscal year, the city’s Capital Improvement Plan recommended $654,450 for park and rec improvements, but no funds were allocated in this years budget.

A recent example of needed repairs is the brick facade that fell off the front of the Natatorium in January. The plan for repairing the facility is still in the works, and as of last week, funding at not yet been identified for those repairs.

Natatorium reopens, facade repairs still in the works

The City Commission meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Commission Chambers at the Civic Center, 2 Park Dr. S.