City continues review of crime task force recommendations
Last week, City Commissioners again reviewed recommendations made by the crime task force but took no action.
During their Feb. 1 work session, staff walked commissioners through some of the recommendations the task force made last fall. This time, Great Falls Police Chief Jeff Newton had grouped the recommendations by items that could be accomplished within the existing budget, items that would impact the budget and unfunded recommendations.
Newton wasn’t able to attend the meeting, so Capt. John Schaffer attended to answer questions.
City Manager Greg Doyon said that even those in the category that could be accomplished within the existing budget that would require staff time, would likely still come with a cost as resources are reallocated and staff are taking on more tasks.
Doyon told commissioners that the easiest thing at this point would be to strike the recommendations they aren’t interested in pursuing.
Doyon said after that the commission could help staff identify by consensus which recommendations they want to implement so that staff and commissioners can then prioritize and discuss funding strategies.
Commissioners gave no guidance or indication of their priorities during the meeting, but instead decided to spend the next two weeks reviewing them to develop their priorities.
“Without a doubt some of the recommendations in here you would never be able to support with our current general fund position,” Doyon said, and a public safety levy ask to the voters would be required.
One potential funding strategy listed in the recommendation chart from GFPD included marijuana tax revenue.
The city currently prohibits the sale of marijuana within the city limits since it’s federally restricted.
Cascade County recently updated zoning laws to allow the sale of recreational marijuana in the heavy industrial districts where medical marijuana was already allowed.
The state will impose a flat 20 percent tax on recreational marijuana and local governments can send the question to the ballot for a 3 percent local option tax. Missoula, Park and Yellowstone counties have enacted such a tax.
Commissioner Don Ryan told The Electric in December that those in the marijuana industry are going to challenge the county for their restrictions since they want it to be more widely available in the county.
Ryan told The Electric that he wasn’t aware of any plans at the county to pursue the local option tax.
“If we got push from the public, we would probably look at it. My only fear is that too many taxes might encourage black market sales. The 20 percent might do that now, we will see. Because of the regulations and monitoring of production and sales the legal purchases are the only guarantee of ‘safe’ product that is not contaminated or laced with other harmful products,” Ryan told The Electric.
Eric Bryson, director of the Montana Association of Counties, told The Electric that they believe the law requires the county to send the question to the voters and if approved:
- 50 percent of the resulting tax revenue must be retained by the county;
- 45 percent of the resulting tax revenue must be appropriated to the municipalities on the basis of the ratio of the population of the city or town to the total county population; and
- 5 percent of the resulting tax revenue must be retained by the Montana Department of Revenue to defray costs associated with administering the local option marijuana excise tax.
Commissioner Eric Hinebauch said he thinks recreational marijuana should be allowed in the city limits and asked how that would be changed.
Staff said that it would require direction from the commission to staff to develop changes to the city zoning code and then that proposal would go through the public process that would require a vote by the commission.
Doyon said he expects the city’s prohibition on marijuana to be legally challenged at some point.
Commissioners will continue reviewing the recommendations at future work sessions, which are the first and third Tuesday of every month at 5:30 p.m., before the regular meeting at 7 p.m.