County Commission to Vote on 2020 Budget This Week

County officials predict $98.5 million in revenue and $99.2 million in expenditures during the 2020 fiscal year

By Justin Franz
The sun shines past the tower of the historic Flathead County Courthouse building on Main Street in downtown Kalispell. Beacon File Photo

The Flathead County Commission is expected to approve a $99.2 million budget at a meeting on Sept. 4.

During a public hearing on Aug. 28, county employees outlined the 2020-budget document that predicts $98.5 million in revenue and $99.2 million in expenditures in the upcoming fiscal year.

While it was originally anticipated that the commission would approve the budget after the public hearing, officials said a few line items still needed to be finalized, but that those would likely be sorted out in the coming days.

During the Aug. 28 hearing, county employees dove into the specifics of the budget. Nearly a quarter of the proposed budget, 24 percent, will fund public works departments, including roads and bridges, weeds and solid waste. General government services — including the commission, clerk and recorder, county attorney, finance and human resources — take up 21 percent of the budget. And pubic safety, including the sheriff’s office, detention center, search and rescue and firefighting, take up 18 percent of the budget.

Broken down by function, 43 percent of the county budget, or about $42 million, goes toward paying for salaries and benefits of the county’s 543.3 full-time equivalent employees, an increase from about 525 employees in the 2019 fiscal year. Over the last year, positions were added to a number of departments, including treasurer, health, solid waste, and planning. Effective July 1, 2019, the county also added two school resource officer positions. Those positions are being funded in partnership with Flathead Electric Cooperative and the Bigfork and Evergreen school districts. A new position is also being added to the detention center for a pretrial services pilot program. The employee will perform risk assessments of each inmate to see who could be released before trial.

The largest funding mechanisms for the annual budget are local taxes (41.5 percent); government grants (17.1 percent) and charges for services (16.9 percent). Total taxable value for the county increased from $245.45 million to $267.50 million with the certification of the new valuation numbers by the Department of Revenue, a 9 percent increase over last year. As a result of the increase in valuation, the proposed tax levy will drop by 5.82 mills to 160.70.

For those who own a property worth $200,000, their county taxes will drop $15.71.

After county employees reviewed the proposed budget, the meeting was opened for public comment. No members of the public spoke. Afterwards, Commissioner Phil Mitchell thanked the employees who worked on the budget for sticking to the commission’s goal of keeping taxes low and spending in check.

“I’m proud of how we spend our money,” Mitchell said. “I think we’re very conservative in how we spend.”

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