Commission approves Cascade County budget with tax increases, new deputies
Cascade County Commissioners voted Tuesday to approve their budget for this fiscal year.
Commissioners said they had hoped to lower taxes a bit, but an error in tax valuation from the Department of Revenue ended up lowering the value of county mills so there will be an increase in property taxes this year.
The commission has used the inflationary factor, the permissive medical levy and due to June flooding, has levied two mills for the emergency disaster permissive levy.
Last year, county residents were assessed 172.02 mills for county services. This year, the total mills for county services are 177.63.
Mary Embleton, county budget officer, said the change in total mills doesn’t necessarily correlate with a change in a residents tax bill and since taxing jurisdictions are layers, each tax bill is depending on the property’s location.
For an example, a homeowner within the City of Great Falls who pays the countywide mill levy on a property of $192,500 will see an annual county tax increase of $6.13, according to Embleton’s figures.
A homeowner in unincorporated Cascade County who pays the countywide and rural mills with a property valued at $161,300, will see an annual county tax increase of $12.10.
The budget includes investments in capital improvements and fleet purchases, including $705,000 for heavy equipment purchases and $542,000 for fleet vehicles.
Replacing the grandstands and the Paddock Club at Montana Expo Park makes up a major portion of the capital expenditures, at nearly $3.4 million, plus $125,000 for water main replacement at the fairgrounds. Another $800,000 has been budgeted for adding two classrooms to the Youth Detention Center and $426,890 for renovations at the Executive Plaza building.
Those contracts have already been awarded and work is underway on most of those projects.
Ten new positions are included in this budget: two deputies, four bailiffs and four public works positions.
Undersheriff Dave Phillips said the bailiffs would not be sworn deputies and when not serving as bailiff would do other assigned duties at the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office.
A tax appeal from Calumet Montana Refining and the company’s request for DoR to reevaluate their taxable value is impacting the county budget, and Embleton said county officials are continuing to monitor that situation to determine future impacts to the budget.
The county budget also includes a one time $17,000 increase to the Great Falls Public Library, according to Commissioner Jane Weber.
Weber informed the library board of the additional funding during their Sept. 25 meeting.
The county is using the 2-mill emergency levy to generate additional funds for road and bridge repairs needed after the June flooding in the county.
John Stevens, county DES coordinator, said the damages didn’t meet the threshold to received assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But they didn’t meet the criteria for state assistance and were approved for about $204,000 in state funding. The county has to use the two mills to be eligible for state assistance and the county estimates that will generate about $132,000.