Kalispell Confronts Another Meager Budget

By Beacon Staff

Kalispell City Council and staff met last week to begin to craft a budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, confronting a spare, though relatively stable set of numbers.

Although the overall city budget totals nearly $46 million, discussion at the most recent workshop focused on the general fund, which comprises about 20 percent of the total budget, but also administers the salaries of most city employees. As a result, the general fund tends to come under the greatest scrutiny, and has encountered the biggest difficulties as a result of the economy over the last year.

Webb expects the city to take in $9.106 million in revenue in fiscal year 2010, and spend $9.101 million. Revenues are less than 2009 because the Parks and Recreation Department budget has been spun off into its own special revenue fund. Cash reserves are estimated to drop from $464,591 at the end of the current fiscal year, to $136,547 at the end of fiscal year 2010. Webb has said previously a city of Kalispell’s size should have a cash reserve of more than $1 million.

“The further drop in reserves, despite the budget cuts and hiring freeze, indicate the city is still operating at a level it cannot afford,” Webb wrote in his report to city council.

Adding to general fund difficulties is the city’s ambulance fund, which increased its rates this year but was still in the red – the difference of which must be made up by the general fund. Webb also recommended the fire department be downsized to “not more than 30 shift firefighters.” The council will continue its budget discussion over the coming weeks and plans to vote on a preliminary budget in the middle of June.

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