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Regular City Council Meeting
Public Hearing & Ordinance Amending Charter with Family Safety Levy
City Hall Administration
The City Council is being asked to hold a public hearing and consider adopting an ordinance setting a November 4, 2014, election on a Family Safety Levy to give Police, Fire and the 9-1-1 Dispatch Center enough funds to meet growing community needs over the next decade. Police and Fire calls rose more than 32% in five years, from 69,174 in Fiscal Year 2009 (FY 09) to 91,519 in FY 13, the last completed budget year at the time this report is being prepared. The City's population has been growing at an annual rate of 1.5%. At that rate, the Billings population would increase by 18,000 people and total 128,532 in 2024. The City's area is also increasing and is projected to grow 1.5-2 square miles in the next five (5) years.
Billings City Charter Section 1.02,
Mill Levy Limit,
caps the tax levy on real and personal property that may be collected for the General Fund at 74 mills and allows increases only by a simple majority approval vote in an election. In Fiscal Year FY 15, a total of 58% of the General Fund appropriations are going to public safety services. Additional funds to operate the public safety departments have come from levy increases approved by voters in 1998 and 2004. Significant non-budgeted financial reserves also have been built with a goal of helping to cover Police, Fire and the 9-1-1 Dispatch Center costs through approximately FY 18. However, increasing costs and limited property tax growth due to statewide reappraisal practices are not allowing growth to keep up with budget needs.
November 4 ballot items must be submitted to the Yellowstone County Election Office no later than August 11, 2014. An ordinance to amend the Charter requires a public hearing and approval at two readings no less than 12 days apart. In order to meet that timetable within its current meeting schedule, the Council needs to conduct a public hearing and approve the ordinance on July 14. The second approval and passage of a resolution that establishes the ballot language would be considered on July 28.
The October 2013 staff study identified three levels of service from which the public could choose:
A revenue freeze would require cuts in Police and Fire (which includes the 9-1-1 Dispatch Center) budgets beginning in FY 17. Personnel reductions over the following three (3) fiscal years could be as many as 65 FTEs.
A level service plan would keep personnel numbers and operations at the same levels in FY 15. Given an estimated 1.5% increase in population each year, which is consistent with past growth, this would lead to an eventual decline in response times and services offered in future years.
A community growth plan would help the City keep up with demand. Over 5 years, the City would add 13 police officers, six firefighters, an animal control officer, a Police Clerk, a Fire Administrative Support person and five 9-1-1 dispatchers to meet growing needs. An assistant city attorney and a paralegal also would be added in the General Fund to meet increased cases expected from additional growth.
The levy would start in FY16 (tax year 2015) at 12.00 mills and approximately $2,000,000. In FY25 (tax year 2024) 125 mills would be levied and produce approximately $22,800,000. The Mill Levy assessment for FY 25 would continue indefinitely. General Fund reserves would be spent down to the recommended level by the end of FY18.
Staff recommends that the City Council hold a public hearing and approve the attached ordinance which sets a November 4, 2014, election on a Family Safety mill levy that meets the community growth budget needs.
APPROVED BY CITY ADMINISTRATOR
3 scenario budget comparison
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