City budget up for vote Tuesday, includes intent to increase taxes

Most of the discussion around the City of Great Falls’ proposed budget has centered around the Natatorium, but there’s a lot more going on in the $117.9 million budget.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the budget during their July 17 meeting as well as their intent to raise property taxes.

Natatorium closure likely through city budget process

The mill levies will be finalized later this fall when the city receives its certified taxable value from the Montana Department of Revenue.

Under the proposed budget, the city would increase taxes $6.14 for the year on a home with a taxable value of $100,000. That includes the inflationary factor and the permissive medical levy.

The increase is projected to generate $427,721 for the general fund.

City continuing discussion to close Natatorium, repair fire stations; additional budget work session set for July 11

Montana law limits municipalities on property tax increases to “one-half of the average rate of inflation for the prior three years.”

For this budget year, which started July 1, the Montana Department of Administration set the inflationary factor at 0.82 percent, which is $127,721 in additional revenue for the city.

For comparison, the estimated repairs at the Natatorium range from $539,834 to $612,526. The six additional officers requested by the Great Falls Police Department are an estimated $487,584. The two additional firefighters requested by Great Falls Fire Rescue is an estimated $154,000.

None of those items are funded in the budget proposal.

Proposed city budget would close Natatorium, potentially a golf course

Repairs to the sewer line at two GFFR stations are included for $230,000 since in the process of making some other repairs at the stations, city officials discovered that the sewer line had collapsed at those stations. That is cause for concern, city officials said, since the collapse created a void under the truck floors and if those become structurally unsound it will severely impact fire operations.

The city is also able to increase property taxes to pay for employee health insurance premiums. The proposed increase this year is 1.93 percent or $4.30 on a $100,000 property. The city’s health insurance premium costs increased by 8.2 percent for this fiscal year and the increase would provide an additional $300,000 in the general fund to help cover those costs, according to the city.

The city also estimates about $400,000 in newly taxable property this fiscal year, but tax appeals from previous years, could have an estimated $2.125 million impact on the budget reserves, according to the city.

Other numbers to be aware of:

The city is planning increases for utility rates to include a 5 percent increase for water, 2 percent increase for sewer, 10 percent for storm drain and 5 percent for commercial sanitation. Those proposals will come before the City Commission at a later date, but all will require public hearings.

A 7 percent increase to the Portage Meadows assessment and a 3 percent increase for the boulevard district assessment. The assessments will go before the City Commission in September.