Voters weigh in on proposed public safety levy and bond

Posted at 5:47 PM, Jun 04, 2024

HELENA — In Helena, voters are looking at a bond for a new fire station to cover the city's north side and a levy to pay for more police and firefighters.

"I think it's really important to maintain funding for our public safety," said voter Rikki Read.

"Vote Here" sign

The levy would raise roughly $3.1 million to pay for nine new police officer positions and 15 new firefighters.

The bond would cover the approximately $7 million for a new fire station and training facility on the north side of the railroad tracks.

If both measures are approved, property taxes will be raised by around $150 a year on a home valued at $300,000.

More civic center voters

"I strongly believe in education, and I strongly believe in public safety. I think those are critical for a safe community, but you can only go to the well so many times for so much," said Ken Taylor, another voter at the Helena Civic Center.

A voter named Elizabeth echoed a similar concern about the possible increase in property taxes.

She said, "I think if we eliminated the voting machines and went back to hand counting using paper ballots, we'd save a lot of money. If we were saving money that way, people might be more interested in some of these other expenses that the city is proposing."

Sign for voters

The fire and police chiefs say the new station and staff are needed to meet the growth in demand for public safety calls.

The City of Helena reports a 34% increase in residents since 1980, and "city limits have grown approximately three miles over the past twenty years."

Voters at Helena Civic Center

"It's super important that we keep our police and firemen funded. They are crucial to the community. They serve an important purpose, and I think keeping them funded is extremely important," said voter Dustin Scott.

It's been more than 40 years since the city added a fire station and 20 years since the police added patrol staff.