On The Agenda: Tough Budget Decisions and Downtown Plan

By Beacon Staff

Kalispell City Council meets tonight at 7 p.m. to hammer out a series of votes on the fiscal year that began July 1, as well as vote on whether to create a parks maintenance district to provide funding for the city’s parks, and vote to set the city’s annual tax levies.

The overall draft budget for the city currently stands at $52,645,169, but many of the city departments are paid for by specific enterprise funds, like the wastewater treatment plant, water and sewer districts, and airport fund. The city’s general fund, which covers such departments as the police, fire and public works, has been adjusted down from $11,350,998 to $10,823,180, and this is where the city faces its most serious budget pinch.

The effort by the Parks and Recreation Department to get out from the general fund derives mainly from the competition for general fund dollars it must deal with every year. When money is tight, the city can cut back on parks maintenance in ways not possible with staffing the police and fire departments.

Creating a parks maintenance district would essentially add an annually fee, anywhere from $22 for some homes to $500 for a commercial property, that city residents would pay to set aside money for the parks. The council may vote to create the parks maintenance district over the vocal objections of some members of the public, or could decide to put the vote over creating the district on the ballot in November.

The toughest decisions facing the council involve the distribution of money within the general fund. Significant cuts could mean laying off some city employees. Council members are also nervous that the cash reserves in the city’s coffers are getting too low.

There is a good chance that council members may vote on the non-controversial items, like water and sewer districts, and push back debates over the general fund and parks maintenance district for a few weeks to study the issues more closely.

Also on the agenda tonight, council will vote to annex several pieces of property wholly surrounded by city land that have not yet been brought into the city.

WHITEFISH CITY COUNCIL

The Whitefish City Council meets at 7:10 p.m. tonight to discuss implementing the Downtown Master Plan along with approving several amendments to zoning and architectural design standards in the city’s growth policy.

The meeting is held at City Hall’s council chambers.

The council can initiate adoption of the master plan, though final approval would take place at a later meeting. Tonight is the the first reading.

Councilors will also discuss:

-$2.2-million loan from DNRC for the city’s wastewater improvement project
-Adjusting the cash-in-lieu payment in connection with affordable housing
-Mayor Jenson will lead a discussion regarding funding public projects

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