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Missoula County to boost spending by $1.1M in FY21 budget to pursue “core values”

Missoula County to boost spending by $1.1M in FY21 budget to pursue “core values”
Posted at 8:52 AM, Aug 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-15 11:00:57-04

Missoula County unveiled its proposed Fiscal Year ’21 budget on Thursday, which includes $1.1 million in increased spending, the majority of which would fund new services.

A smaller amount of that total would cover inflationary costs and one-time expenses. All told, the new revenue would result in a tax increase of $17.34 on a home valued at $350,000, or around $1.44 a month.

“As this budget has been developed, we’ve endeavored to be as frugal as possible, recognizing that we are in the midst of this global pandemic,” said Commissioner Dave Strohmaier. “But at the same time, recognizing that we need to set ourselves up for success and prepare for and invest in economic recovery. It’s a bit of a balance there, and it hasn’t been lost on us that this is a difficult time we’re living through.”

Unlike past years, the county couched most of this year’s new requests under what commissioners described as core values gleaned from members of the community. They range from public safety to growth and development.

They also include environmental sustainability and social equity.

“The things we heard from our constituents that were really important were social equity and environmental sustainability,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “In terms of social equity, it’s making sure the services we provide get to everyone in our community and that people who work for Missoula County represent our community.”

Under “diversity and equity,” the county plans to place more than $70,000 to develop a strategy to address affordable housing and hire a full-time position to implement any strategies that result. It also plans to spend more than $99,000 for an equity coordinator and $39,000 for a compliance coordinator.

Under justice services and reform, the county proposes an investment of $15,000 on strategic planning to achieve “a more innovative approach” to criminal justice. It would also invest $50,000 on a mobile crisis team.

The city of Missoula is also investing in the crisis unit on a trial basis.

“It’ll fund two mental health professionals with basic medical training to assess and assist people in crisis, and a peer support specialist and case manager to make sure the person receives follow up treatment and mental health services,” said county CFO Andrew Czorny.

Under sustainability and climate change, the county would place $35,000 in new revenue toward its clean electricity initiatives and $26,700 for a climate resilience coordinator. It would also direct $37,000 in new revenue toward a solar array at the detention center.

“We’re funding a 250 kilowatt solar array at the detention center that will cost approximately $500,000,” Czorny said. “We’re going to be financing that over a 20 year period. The detention center by far consumes the most electricity of all county facilities. We will have an expected energy savings we can apply to the debt service.”

Other new expenditures include $85,000 to conduct safe and secure elections, including $63,000 on prepaid postage for ballots, which should be reimbursable under the CARES Act.

Under growth and development, new revenues include $5,000 to fund outreach related to the Mullan Area Master Plan and $35,000 to update county zoning. The largest new growth related expenditure includes $75,000 to study impact fees.

The county also looks to invest $150,000 to improve courthouse security.

“We need to fund a number of security needs at the courthouse,” Czorny said. “It easily receives the highest volume of public traffic of any county facility.”

The county’s total revenue adds up to around $170.2 million, of which 34% is derived from property taxes. The expenditures proposed in the FY21 budget add up to around $168.8 million.

Of the expenditures, Czorny said personnel represents 44% of all costs followed by operations at 33% percent. Capital costs come in at 9%, and debt service at 5%.

The county will continue its budget hearings over the coming weeks.