In 1986, voters first approved a request to help support Gallatin County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue with additional funds.
“Beaches have lifeguards to save you when you need help. We live in the mountains. We have Search and Rescue to come get you when you need help,” said Search and Rescue Commander Jeremy Kopp.
Thirty-four years later, voters will be asked again in June whether they support an increase in property taxes to cover the cost.
“Public safety is a key function of local government. And Search and Rescue is a key part of that public safety.” said Kopp.
The levy increase would go from one mill to three.
This would cost the taxpayer approximately $5.40 a year for a home with an assessed value of $200,000.
“Would you be willing to buy the volunteer a cup of coffee a year? And we say that a little tongue and cheek,” Kopp said.
“I think it’s pretty clear to everyone that the nature of outdoor activities is drastically different than the last 35 years, than the last time we decided to fund it with the one mill,” said Gallatin County Commissioner Scott MacFarlane.
“If you look at a snowmobile from 1986 and compared to what you have now, you could get a couple miles in the backcountry then,” said Kopp. “Now they can take you to the top of the mountain. So when that person has their bad day, it’s a whole different ball game.”
If the measure passes in June, funding would go towards administrative and maintenance support for all 160 volunteers.
“We want them to be doing the job of finding people and rescuing them. Not changing the oil in the snowmobile,” said Commissioner Macfarlane.
According to the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, two-thirds of Search and Rescue calls are reported by locals.