County budget approved, includes tax reduction

Cascade County Commissioners adopted a budget during a special meeting Sept. 3 and set the tax mill, which is decreasing for county property owners.

The total mills being assessed this year is decreasing from last year since the values of mills increased, according to the county budget office.

Proposed county budget now available, commission to take action Sept. 3

Property owners with an assessed value of $192,500 within the city limits of Great Falls who pay the county-wide mill levy will have an annual county tax decrease of $7.10, according to the county budget office.

For homeowners in the unincorporated portions of Cascade County who pay both the county-wide and rural mills with an assessed value of $161,300, will see an annual property tax reduction of $12.04.

But, with limited newly taxable property in the county and continued tax protests from major companies, particularly the ongoing Calumet Montana refining protest, there aren’t many additional resources in the county budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.

The budget does include funding for a new full-time civilian evidence technician position.

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Sheriff Jesse Slaughter told The Electric that the new position will be a force multiplier for the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office since currently, deputies and detectives are having to handle those duties in addition to running calls and investigating cases.

It will also improve the chain of custody, discovery in court and assist at crime scenes.

The position is posted on the county website and has a starting salary of $40,000.

The sheriff’s office also reduced the cost to the towns of Cascade and Belt by $20,000 to put that money toward the purchase of a home in each town for the resident deputy program.

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Slaughter said once the housing is in place and resident deputies are selected for each town, the agreement for law enforcement services in those communities will be renegotiated.

The county currently has contracts with Belt and Cascade for CCSO to provide 20 hours per week of law enforcement services. The agreement with Belt also includes prosecutorial services from the county attorneys’ office for all misdemeanor DUI and partner family member assault offenses issued in territorial law enforcement jurisdiction of the Town of Belt.

That two-year agreement was approved last summer and the cost to Belt was $55,774.34 for the budget year that ended June 30.

The commission approved a four-year contract with the Town of Cascade for the same services.

The cost to the town for that agreement is $51,308.57 for the current fiscal year, increasing each year to $59,935.71 for fiscal year 2022.

Overall, the county budget is down 16.7 percent from last year and is $63.3 million. That’s largely due to the capital projects that were funded last year, including the grand stands replacement and Paddock Club renovation as well as the spinoff of the Community Health Care Center, which is now Alluvion.

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The new budget includes $523,468 in reappropriated funds to complete the grand stands and Paddock Club as well as another $170,000 for a water main replacement at Montana Expo Park and $958,909 for adding two classrooms and replacing the roof at the Juvenile Detention Center, plus the $582,100 already contracted to replace the control panels at the Adult Detention Center.

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The county is not purchasing any fleet vehicles this year, or funding the pre-trial/jail diversion program that multiple officials were working to develop.

The budget does include a second canine program for CCSO, which is being funded through grants, as well as $61,512 in equipment for the Disaster and Emergency Services department.

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Shyla Patera was the only person to speak on the budget at the meeting and encouraged the county to consider transportation accessibility in their future plans.

Nate Kluz submitted written comment asking commissioners not to fund $60,000 to the Great Falls Development Authority since the agency is able to use nondisclosure agreements.

Commissioner Joe Briggs said GFDA uses the same NDAs that the state uses in economic development efforts.

The county is not allowed to use NDAs, he said, and that’s why they fund GFDA in an effort to spur economic development in the county.

The full budget is available here.