City Council Begins Budget Scrutiny

By Beacon Staff

Kalispell City Council broke out the big, white binders Tuesday night and began tackling the city’s operating budget for fiscal year 2007 and 2008.

Any talk of Memorial Day weekend barbecues evaporated in the face of a two-hour presentation by City Manager James Patrick and other staffers detailing their proposal to maintain Kalispell’s level of public services in the face of rapid growth.

To adjust for inflation, the proposed budget raises $70,836 by increasing the mill levy by 0.91 mills. This increase amounts to a $4.29 increase on a $150,000 home. The state dictates the actual levy requirements in August.

Kalispell’s total city budget expenditures for fiscal year 2008 total $63,246,606, with the general fund making up about 17 percent, or $10,674,429. More than half of the general fund expenditures go to public safety, with the police department getting $3,515,517 and fire receiving $2,393, 257.

The council plans to assess the budget in bite-size portions, and studied general government functions last night, which include the offices of city manager, city attorney, city clerk, the planning and zoning department, information technology and others.

Patrick emphasized to the council that the budget proposal was frugal, and reflected small increases in staffing and inflationary increases to keep up with growth. Two of Kalispell’s five police cars have more than 115,000 miles and need replacement.

Staffing suggestions include a security guard for the new Glacier high school, an additional municipal court clerk and an office assistant for Patrick.

A new building inspector and construction manager are vital, Patrick said, in light of Kalispell’s growth in the current fiscal year, when the city grew by 447 acres with 13 annexations. 15 preliminary plats totaled 392 lots; 29 final plats totaled 582 new lots.

Council members also praised management of the Kalispell Airport Enterprise fund, which is projected to notch up an ending fund balance of $124,433 with all hangar sites leased.

The Council plans to evaluate the fire, police and public health budgets after its regular meeting June 4.

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