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Missoula County postpones final budget hearing; needs more time

Posted: 9:59 AM, Aug 23, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-23 11:59:13-04
Missoula County Courthouse

MISSOULA — Just hours before it was set to hold its final hearing on the Fiscal Year 2020 budget, Missoula County on Thursday postponed the session for another week.

Commissioners opened the budget process on July 25 by suggesting it would “try something a little different this year.”

That has prompted a slight delay, according to Anne Hughes, the county’s communications director.

“The county is approaching the budget differently this year,” she said. “Because of this change in approach, finance staff requested additional time to review and verify the individual department budgets and the total budget prior to compiling all of the information for presentation and public comment.”

At its budget presentation in late July, staff said the county would need to generate an additional $1 million to sustain last year’s budget, even if no additions are made. Last year’s expenditures totaled roughly $182.8 million, and they were expected to tick up to around $183.9 million this year due to cost increases ranging from power to wages.

The county will receive a significant portion of tax increment financing remitted by the city this year. The Missoula City Council adopted its $178.7 million budget this week. Boosted by high property appraisals and newly taxable properties, it managed to reduce mills while growing city services.

But while valuations also went up in the county, commissioners expect to see revenue reductions in other categories. That includes around $408,000 in Payments in Lieu of Taxes from the federal government, and $250,000 in lost revenue from the state for housing state inmates at the county detention center.

“Rather than guessing what our revenue forecast would be and subsequently trying to align revenue with expenditures, we’re going to try something a little different this year,” Commissioner Dave Strohmaier said early in the process.

“We’re focusing on what we’re calling our ‘sustainment budget.’ It allows us to look at what it costs Missoula County to provide and deliver the same level of services you’re enjoying right now in the community.”

The county plans to hold its final hearing next Thursday and is expected to adopt the budget on Sept. 3.

“We don’t have the final budget for your viewing today,” Strohmaier said on Thursday. “We’ll keep the final hearing on the budget open for another week.”

-Martin Kidston reporting for the Missoula Current