Kalispell Council Approves $141 Million Budget

The budget increased from the preliminary budget approved earlier this summer by $2 million

By Maggie Dresser
Kalispell City Hall on March 16, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Kalispell City Council on Monday passed the final $141 million budget for fiscal year 2024, which is $2 million greater than the preliminary budget following tax increment finance (TIF) and grant adjustments.

Following public hearings last month, several changes were made due to higher than anticipated valuations, including a $2.4 million westside TIF increase, a $630,000 increase in the downtown TIF redevelopment, and $875,000 in grants.

In the $15.5 million general fund, funded primarily through property taxes, capital was up 3% compared to 2% in fiscal year 2023.

According to the preliminary budget report prepared by City Manager Doug Russell, the overall employee count for the municipality is “net neutral,” with no new staff positions added except for an additional law enforcement position that could be added through a potential grant.

The Kalispell Police Department saw a 8.61% hike in its budget, increasing from $6.1 million to $6.6 million. The Kalispell Fire Department saw a 4.89% increase in spending with the final department budget at $4.8 million.

Several departments saw a reduction in spending, including the mayor and council, attorneys and community development departments.

According to the budget report, inflation costs limited the operations growth with rising prices, which has driven an increase in staff wages.

The council also approved a reduction in the city’s mill levy, which was approved at 139.82 mills, down from the fiscal year 2023 levy of 165.58 mills, which will result in a reduction of the city levy on property tax bills. Due to the city’s growth, officials will likely collect 13% more in property taxes compared to last year.

“We consistently fight to keep our mills as low as possible and reduce the tax burden on the public,” Councilor Sid Daoud said.

The mill levy is expected to generate approximately $10.6 million in tax revenue for the city.

Additionally, Russell said the city will potentially relocate the Parks and Recreation Department to the Depot Park building, which would need more than $200,000 in renovations and could potentially benefit from TIF funds. The current Parks and Recreation building would be transformed into an evidence storage facility for the Kalispell Police Department, which would also need facility upgrades.

The Depot Park building most recently housed the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce until a spike in disturbances among the homeless population prompted officials to relocate.

“I think getting something into Depot Park is highly important,” Councilor Jed Fisher said. “I think to leave that vacant is a big mistake for the city and for the taxpayers. I also think an evidence room is very important.”