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Missoula County adopts “modest” $188M budget for FY 2020

Posted: 9:25 AM, Sep 04, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-04 11:25:17-04
Missoula County Courthouse

MISSOULA — Calling it modest, Missoula County on Tuesday adopted its Fiscal Year 2020 budget, adding a handful of new positions while passing on larger requests from various departments.

Combined with a handful of new additions and investments, the overall tax increase comes to $3.8 million, or roughly 8%. Voter debt service will decrease by $1.5 million as the jail bond and an older open space bond are retired.

“It accomplishes our goals of providing services to the public,” said Commissioner Dave Strohmaier. “It doesn’t do everything all of us up here would like it to do, and maybe some members of the public would like, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

No members of the public offered comment at Tuesday’s hearing.

As adopted, the budget includes around 183.6 countywide mills and 37.3 county only mills. Combined with 12.9 open space mills, the total reaches 233.8 mills.

The value of a countywide mill is now $245,836 while the value of a county-only mill is $105,321. An open space mill is now valued at $241,949.

“It changed just slightly from our public hearing on Thursday,” said Andrew Czorny, the county’s chief financial officer.

The larger expenses in the 2020 budget include $9.6 million for the sheriff’s department, and $14.8 million for the detention center. It also funds Partnership Health Center at $31.1 million and the library at $3.1 million.

With debt service on voter-approved bonds added in, the adopted budget amounts to $188.6 million. Personnel costs represented roughly $71 million of that total, followed by operational costs at $58 million.

“All told, this was a modest budget,” Strohmaier said. “This was a great improvement over prior budgets.”

In this year’s budget cycle, the county had to adjust for losses in outside revenue, including centrally assessed property, or the taxes large corporate landholders pay to the county.

It also saw a decrease in what the state reimburses the county for holding its inmates at the county jail. The state has passed that cost on to local taxpayers.

Amanda Henthorne, the county’s budget analyst, said several last-minute additions were made to the budget, including the cost of utilities for the new county elections office on Russell Street.

The county will also fund a new accessible voting machine.

“Those had been one of the requested items for election equipment,” said Henthorne. “Because we still had capacity within the borrowing limitations we had set up for that, we added one of those machines to the budget.”

-Martin Kidston reporting for the Missoula Current