Valley Journal
Valley Journal

Public safety building, taxes topics of budget talk 

POLSON – After considerable discussion, Polson City Commission approved a $19.55 million budget for Fiscal Year 2017-2018 last week.

The previous budget was for $14.24 million. City Finance Officer Cindy Dooley said the increase is largely due to the wastewater treatment project, which is represented in the sewer fund. 

Commissioner Bob Martin and city resident Mark Johnston expressed concern over rising property taxes, while Johnston and Commissioner Stephen Turner questioned a $15,000 line item having to do with a new public safety building. 

The city earlier paid $15,000 to a Winterhaven, Florida, company for a spatial needs assessment. The additional $15,000 would apparently be spent on surveys or some way to gauge public interest in such a project. 

It was noted that commission meeting minutes from July referred to a marketing plan for a new public safety building, but Mayor Heather Knutson said it’s not marketing. “We need to find out what we need,” she said. 

Shrives called it “more of a research project. We can’t continue to function in this building with a police department.” 

Police Chief Wade Nash said the city has three options: build, rent or buy another building for the police department and/or city court. 

Earlier this year the city received a preliminary estimate of $7 million to build a new public safety building. 

Turner said he would rather put $15,000 toward a new ladder truck for the fire department. 

“We’re kind of getting a little off kilter,” he said. “Stop spending where we don’t need to.” He noted the city has been spending on a new wastewater treatment plant and on upgrading the golf course, “but I don’t see us saving any money.”

City Manager Mark Shrives said the city has begun setting aside 16.67 percent of the general fund budget into a reserve fund. Dooley said that’s been in effect since April 2, 2015. The city ended the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year with $740,000 in reserves. “I think this budget is reasonable,” she added. 

Martin said his taxes have increased one-third over the past seven years. “It can’t keep doing that,” he said. 

Johnston said his property taxes have doubled over the past two cycles. “It’s becoming problematic for my family,” he said. 

Dooley later pointed out that not all of city property owners’ taxes come from the city. Some of any increase this year, probably a large part of it, came from the county as a result of the dam being removed from the tax rolls when it was put into federal trust. 

For the upcoming fiscal year, Dooley noted that a $100,000 home will have a city property tax of $234.44 compared to $235.37 during the previous fiscal year and $228.81 for FY 2015-2016. Assessed value also plays a part, she said. 

Odds and ends

The city hired three new police officers recently. The trio were introduced at last week’s meeting: Oscar Garcia, Christopher Moldenhauer and Aaron Sutton. 

The city is taking letters of interest from those interested in the Ward I seat of Todd Coutts, who resigned last month and moved to Missoula. 

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