HELENA – Helena city leaders plan to spend slightly less money in the upcoming fiscal year.

Earlier this week, City Manager Ron Alles unveiled the $85 million preliminary budget for the 2018 fiscal year, which begins this July 1. It’s down from $89 million for the current fiscal year.

While the new proposal is smaller than the 2017 budget, it’s still much larger than previous years. Alles said that’s because city leaders have made a conscious decision to spend more on capital improvement projects, especially for public works.

“City staff has worked pretty hard, in particular in the last few years, to lay a plan out whereby we can begin to address the significant infrastructure needs of the city for those particular utilities,” he said.

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The preliminary 2018 budget includes about $20 million for capital projects, including sewer, street and storm drain improvements.

One of the biggest expenditures will be $7 million to replace a segment of the transmission main at the Ten Mile Water Treatment Plant. The entire pipe, which brings drinking water from the plant into town, will eventually need to be replaced.

Alles said, despite the smaller budget, Helena residents won’t see any cutbacks.

“There are no cuts in services; we’re going to maintain the same level of service we did last year,” he said. “In fact, I think we’re enhancing some of that service by way of the major construction projects that we’re looking to embark on.”

The city commission will hold a full hearing on the budget plan May 23 at the Helena Civic Center. They will go into greater detail about each city department’s priorities and proposed spending. The public is invited to attend.

Alles expects commissioners will adopt a final budget at their meeting on June 26.

If you’d like to look at the preliminary budget plan, it’s available on the Helena city website.