News & Features

Kalispell City Council Approves $80 Million 2020 Budget

Budget includes increases for police and city attorney, $4 million for rail trail

The Kalispell City Council unanimously approved an $80 million budget for the 2020 fiscal year during its regular meeting on Aug. 19.

The $80 million figure is slightly higher than the $78 million that was outlined in the preliminary budget earlier this year.

According to a report from City Manager Doug Russell to the council, a number of changes were made between the draft and final versions of the budget. The largest was a $400,000 cost increase for the Four Mile Drive water project.

The city was unable to formally adopt the new budget until it received certified property valuations and mill levy rates, which arrived from the state earlier this month.

The 2020 budget will fund all city services. Two of the biggest allocations within the budget go to first responders. The police department is receiving a 3.36 percent increase over last year with $5.2 million. The fire department is receiving 1.7 percent less from last year with $3.1 million.

Russell said most city services would remain the same, although the city attorney’s office budget is being increased by more than 8 percent so that it can afford to hire a new attorney. The city also plans on building out the third story of city hall, which is currently used for storage, so that it has additional meeting spaces. That addition is expected to cost about $200,000.

The budget includes approximately $4 million to finish design work and begin construction of the new rail trail. In June, the plan for a future rail trail received a major boost when the city finalized a $500,000 railbanking agreement with BNSF Railway, which owns the right-of-way through downtown. The agreement allows the City of Kalispell to acquire the right-of-way and rip up the rail line through town, about two miles from Woodland Park to Meridian Road.

Trail designers will be finishing their work in the coming months and will present a final design later this year. The tracks are still being used by the Mission Mountain Railroad, which leases it from BNSF, to store freight cars and deliver freight to Northwest Drywall. The other business along the tracks in downtown, CHS Kalispell, recently began receiving freight cars at its new location at the Glacier Rail Park.

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