What the results of the bond and levy vote mean for the City of Helena

Helena Fire Department.JPG
Posted at 4:43 PM, Jun 05, 2024

HELENA — Preliminary results show Helena narrowly approved a bond to build a new fire station but rejected a levy that would have raised money to hire firefighters to staff it. As of 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 55% of voters rejected the Public Safety Levy with 45% in favor. The fire station construction bond voters were nearly equally split, with those in favor ahead by around 60 votes.

“The demand for service is not going down. We know that our calls for service at the fire department and the police department continue to increase. We'll work hard to meet that demand but that the needs still exist and we’ll continue to look at our options to provide quality services to our citizens every single day,” says City Commissioner, Emily Dean.

The levy would have also raised funds to grow the police force. Helena Police Department Police Chief, Brett Petty, says that he will work with the city to figure out a solution to their staffing situation.

“We're at a staffing level now, and we can't exist at that staffing level for much more time. But we're going to have to figure things out here locally, work with our city Commission, work with the city manager, and come up with a plan for what's next. What that plan is, I don't know, but we're going to have to have some meetings, talk about it, and figure something out,” says Petty.

The bond for a new fire station appears as if it will pass according to unofficial results. This will help build a new fire station on the wastewater property next to Costco.

If the bond passes without the levy, the city would be able to build the fire station but not staff it.

Dean says that she understands that this past year has been difficult financially for many citizens.

“This is an opportunity for us to go back to the drawing board. I will say I think the conversation around property taxes and the burden of property taxes, particularly this last year, are significant, and it's not one that we have taken lightly. Hopefully, in future years, after the legislature has maybe gotten an opportunity to reform our property tax system, that we will be able to come back to the voters or have other mechanisms and avenues to fund the public services that we are required to have, that we must have, that, right now, our general fund budget are just not able to support,” says Dean.

Jon Campbell, Fire Chief for the City of Helena says that they still have time to figure out a solution that works for the city’s services and citizens alike.

“A new fire station’s not an overnight endeavor. That gives us time to strategize and work with our city leadership and policymakers to discuss what our future options are,” says Campbell.