MISSOULA - Voters across Missoula County said no to a proposed $5 million levy that would have raised funding to maintain and expand crisis services on Tuesday night.
The first batch of returns, which were slow on Tuesday due to equipment testing, didn't post until 9 p.m.
At that time, the levy was failing by more than 1,500 votes, and the margin only grew wider as the night wore on.
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By Wednesday morning, the levy had 26,474 votes against and 22,121 in favor, or 54% to 46%. Calls to advocates of the levy weren't returned on Tuesday night.
Among other things, advocates suggested funding from the crisis levy “could” provide emergency shelter for the city's homeless population and help fund re-entry programs for those released from prison.
The mobile support team, jail mental health and a pending crisis receiving center could also see funding, according to backers.
The levy would increase the taxes on a home with an assessed market value of $200,000 by $54 per year. The assessed value is set by the state and does not reflect a home's true value if sold on the open real estate market.
If approved, the increase would have been reflected in the November 2023 tax bill.
The fate of the levy had been a factor in recent hearings held by the Missoula City Council.
Council member Daniel Carlino sought to use what was left of the city's American Rescue Plan Act funding this year to keep an outdoor homeless camp open, but a majority sought to keep that funding in reserve in case the crisis levy didn't pass.
As a result, the city has roughly $900,000 in ARPA funds remaining, which it can apply to its homeless services next year. But with the levy's failure, there is no ensured pool of funding to continue services beyond that point.
Neighbors for a Safe and Healthy Community released the following statement on Wednesday morning:
Supporters of the measure are disappointed the Missoula Crisis Intervention Levy did not pass.
The need for the innovative programs our community has developed over the past two years is clear.
We’ve succeeded in closing down dangerous and unsanitary riverside camps, while providing safe places for people to go. We’ve provided justice to victims of crime and abuse. And we’ve connected people in need to programs that can help them rebuild their lives. Taking action has helped keep our entire community safe and healthy while reducing costly impacts on our jail and emergency rooms.
The one-time federal funding that helped us address the disruption caused by the pandemic is running out, but the problems remain.
Without the levy, we risk losing the progress we’ve made to date. People experiencing mental health challenges, victims of crime, and our neighbors facing homelessness may not get the help they need. We face a return of dangerous, illegal camping on our riverbanks and downtown streets. We may not be able to provide safe shelter that prevents people from dying of exposure due to extreme heat or cold.
The potential loss of lifesaving services that help people in crisis get back on their feet is troubling and deeply concerning.
However, Missoula County citizens are caring and innovative. We are confident that caring people will continue doing their best to address the challenges our community faces. And we are hopeful that citizens will ultimately see the need and value of public investment to address problems that affect not just those in crisis, but impact the health and safety of our entire community.