Public hearings on city assessments tonight, no increases proposed

During their Aug. 4 meeting, the City Commission will conduct public hearings on its assessments, which include street maintenance, boulevard maintenance, Portage Meadows maintenance, lighting districts and the park district.

None of them are increasing and the budget, which commissioners adopted on July 21, doesn’t include much for equipment or capital improvements since staff kept it bare bones to avoid raising taxes during the COVID-19 pandemic and bracing for higher than usual tax protests and delinquencies as well as potential shortfalls in other areas..

Proposed city budget includes no tax increases

During the July 21 meeting, City Manager Greg Doyon said that it’s probably the least exciting but most essential budget in recent years.

City manager recommending budget with no tax increases; limited funds

“There wasn’t a lot of flexibility in this budget to work with to begin with,” Doyon said.

Doyon and the finance staff presented a budget primer during the May 26 budget and Doyon said they didn’t get much feedback from commissioners, so continued with their proposal of a baseline budget.

[READ: City of Great Falls proposed FY2021 budget]

The adopted budget uses $652,105 of fund balance for operations in the general fund.

“This is very seldomly done,” Melissa Kinzler, finance director, told commissioners, “but we’re doing it to avoid increasing taxes.”

The recommended minimum policy of the city is 22 percent, which equates to about two months of operating expenses for cash flow needs, maintaining the city’s quality, low-risk credit rating and to address unexpected expenses.

Doyon said that it’s critical to maintain a healthy fund because he believes it will take several years to recover from COVID-19.

In their July 21 meeting, Mayor Bob Kelley said that because of the city’s fiscal management, it had the ability to dip into reserves, but that the repercussions of the pandemic will be seen for years.

“We still have challenges ahead,” Kelly said.