The Kalispell City Council is proposing an $82.5 million budget to finance municipal operations for the 2021 fiscal year.
Projects budgeted for the upcoming year include water and sewer, Montana Department of Transportation infrastructure, CORE Area redevelopment and general fund departments, which includes fire, police, court and other city services.
Starting with six-and-a-half fewer mills than last year, the city’s debt service loan will decrease in 2021, which will likely reduce property taxes, City Manager Doug Russell said at a city council work session on Monday, May 18.
“More than likely, the end result of those property taxes that are being assessed by the city of Kalispell will decrease for the property owner during this year’s budget process,” Russell said.
City growth and the South Kalispell Airport Tax Increment Financing district (TIF) have allowed for a half a mill less than Kalispell levied last year.
“We do anticipate new growth throughout the city to be able to budget for that two mill levy that helps account for that,” Russell said. “We get general fund increases by inflationary component and new growth, and new growth theoretically doesn’t impact existing property taxes because you’re getting that new growth in.”
Budgets for city manager, city clerk, finance, attorney, municipal court, public works, police, fire and community development will increase, while budgets for human resources, and mayor and city council will decrease. The planning department budget will decrease by 29.32%.
The budget will also fund the completion of the CORE Area Trail construction, which includes funds from the $3.8 million TIGER grant. The city has also transferred $200,000 from the former community development fund to “enhance construction,” according to the preliminary budget document.
Montana Municipal Interlocal Authority (MMIA) employee health care costs are projected to increase 7% this year, with 2.5% of that increase directly related to the anticipated COVID-19 impact, according to Russell.
Other projects include improvements to Lions Park, two information services projects, including private fiber and a voiceover system, and water and sewer upgrades.
The city is looking to add four full-time positions in public works, information services, the fire department and the police department. Fire and Emergency Medical Services responder positions are also being funded through the SAFER grant, which covers 75% of salaries for the first year, Russell said.
The city recommends allocating $278,520 to construct a 1,600 square-foot facility to assist in evidence search and storage, which will be funded with impact fees.
Commercial activity is expected to decrease in 2021, but the city anticipates an increase in residential activity with several subdivisions in progress.