County Expenditures Forecast to Increase 6.1%

Commissioners approve preliminary budget, no parking resolution

By Micah Drew
Flathead County Courthouse. Beacon file photo

The Flathead County Commission approved the preliminary expenditure budget for next year at its June 30 meeting.

The proposed appropriation for all funds in fiscal year 2021, which began on July 1, is $105,214,952, which represents a 6.1% increase over last year’s budget.

The additional expenditures come from several areas of the budget. For one, the commissioners approved a 3% cost-of-living adjustment for the 540 workers employed by Flathead County. The payroll adjustment accounts for $1 million of the budget increase.

Also, the juvenile detention budget is set to increase by $239,000. Flathead County Administrator Mike Pence said the expansion was made in order to match the “significant” amount of detention funds used in the last fiscal year, and noted that the costs are based on detention decisions by county judges.

The health department will receive additional funding for laboratory and medical supplies, as well as for COVID-19 operating supplies that should be reimbursed from the state.

The sheriff’s department operating budget is set to receive an additional $270,000, a 6.5% bump. The road and information technology operating budgets are slated for increases of $700,000 and $162,000, respectively.

Additional funds for capital-improvement projects are also included in the new budget. An increase of $780,000 will go toward the two major capital improvements for 2021, a solid-waste project and the construction of three salt and sand buildings at the road department, which will total nearly $2.3 million.

The budget will be formally adopted in August, after the Montana Department of Revenue provides property valuation numbers, which will be used for final revenue and mill levy calculations.

Based on the preliminary budget and tax levy requirement, it’s estimated that the mill levy increase will be 26 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

The commissioners also approved a preliminary plat for Saint Herman Orthodox Church for its new location along Morning View Drive west of Kalispell, as well as three other preliminary plats and a final plat for subdivisions.

Then at the July 2 commissioner’s meeting, the board approved the appointment of Dr. J. Peter Heyboer, MD, an internal medicine physician and pediatrician with Kalispell Regional Medical Center, to the Flathead City-County Board of Health for a term expiring at the end of 2021.

Commissioners also brought back a resolution that was tabled last month to designate Treasure Lane, one of the main access roads to the Owen Sowerwine Natural Area (OSNA), as a “no parking” area.

The commissioners agreed that safety concerns regarding parking along the Treasure Lane right of way and recent improvements to parking areas at the end of Treasure Lane and Greenridge Drive, another entrance to OSNA, justified the resolution.

The no parking zone will begin 65 feet from the eastern end of Treasure Lane and include both sides of the roadway to the intersection with Willow Glen Drive.

This is the first addition to the county’s “no parking” resolution that was first adopted in 2018. It is currently unclear from county officials how the resolution will be enforced or what penalty will result from a violation.

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