City officials continue discussion of potential public safety levy
City officials discussed whether to pursue a crime study, as recommended by the city’s crime task force, during their July 19 work session.
During that meeting, City Manager Greg Doyon asked if commissioners wanted to pursue a third party study similar to one conducted by Billings.
He said that he estimates it would cost $56,000 plus travel for a study that would take about 100 days and that only included the cost for looking at the police department.
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Doyon said there’d been internal debate and he needed to know if commissioners wanted to pursue the study in order to move forward.
In April, Doyon gave commissioners information about the Billings study and potential costs for Great Falls to conduct a similar study.
At the time, he said that if commissioners are interested they could talk more about it, but that the crime task force met and made recommendations, many of which are things he said he’s heard for the last decade.
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“I’m not sure having an independent review on top of that is the best use of resources,” Doyon told commissioners in April.
They didn’t give him an indication of whether they wanted to pursue it during the April meeting.
Commissioner Susan Wolff said “I have waffled back and forth,” on the study.
She said she could understand the value in having a third party providing information, but would rather hire a strategist to create a communications plan for a public safety levy.
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“We do not have the expertise to run a safety levy that would be successful,” Wolff said.
Commissioner Joe McKenney said at the start of the work session that, “I have mixed feelings. I don’t have strong feelings either way.”
McKenney said he thinks the crime task force had given them enough information to make decisions, and “I’m comfortable with that.”
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He said that if they do pursue a public safety levy, the voters might not feel they have enough information.
Commissioner Rick Tryon said he was inclined not to conduct a study.
Commissioner Eric Hinebauch said that he was opposed to the study.
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“It’s just very obvious tp me that we need help in all three of these areas,” Hinebauch said of the police, fire and judicial areas of the city.
Mayor Bob Kelly said he thought Billings had passed two successful public safety levies because of the study.
Billings voters approved a $12.2 million public safety levy in 2020.
The city hired a consultant to conduct an analysis of the Billings police department operations and received the report in the spring of 2021.
Voters approved a second public safety levy later in 2021.
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The city also did an internal analysis of high-frequency users of emergency services in 2021.
Wolff and Hinebauch asked if the police and fire foundations could help fund the campaign to pass a public safety levy. The police foundation typically funds equipment and operational needs. The fire foundation was recently established.
The consensus appeared to be forgoing the independent study and no decisions have yet been made on a potential public safety levy.