Whitefish budget expands to cover capital projects

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The Whitefish City Council will hold a public hearing tonight on a $53.5 million preliminary budget for the coming fiscal year that exceeds last year’s budget by about $9.2 million.

The projected increase in the 2020 fiscal budget is largely due to planned capital projects, with a new wastewater treatment plant topping the list. The city is budgeting $9.4 million to be spent on the plant construction as the project begins this year.

Another big capital project is the expansion of the water treatment plant, with $1.4 million budgeted for the coming fiscal year. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has mandated that Whitefish expand its water treatment plant to meet demand.

Other capital projects in the coming year are $1.1 million for Depot Park improvements and $250,000 for stormwater work on the State Park Road project. Resort tax-funded projects, including State Park Road reconstruction, are budgeted to increase by about $500,000, according to City Manager Adam Hammatt’s budget message.

The budget is balanced with a property tax mill levy decrease of 1.58 mills, but due to the projected increase in taxable values, this provides for a 6.58% increase in property tax revenue.

City employees will receive a 2% pay raise, plus a 2% STEP increase. Medical insurance premiums are going up 8%, and the city proposes covering 5.5% of the increase.

The addition of a full-time police officer is penciled in at about $39,317, with the position starting Jan. 1, 2020. Additional seasonal staffing for downtown maintenance and cleaning also is proposed, along with more seasonal employees for the aquatic invasive species decontamination station near City Beach.

A second public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 19 when the council will vote on the final budget document.

The entire proposed FY20 budget document is located under city news on the city’s website at http://www.cityofwhitefish.org/.

In other business, the council will hold a public hearing to consider a conditional-use permit request from Del Mar Pacific Group LLC and developer Mark Panissidi to build a three-story mixed-use building offering three commercial units and 13 residential units at 206 Lupfer Ave. A conditional-use permit is required because the structure’s footprint would be greater than 7,500 square feet and would include more than four residential units.

The Planning Board on May 16 recommended denial of the Del Mar project largely because the proposed building doesn’t comply fit into the existing neighborhood and community character of that area. However, the city Planning Department has recommended approval of the permit subject to 15 conditions.

A public hearing will be held to consider a city resolution adopting the Whitefish Legacy Homes Program’s administrative procedures.

A resolution considering a sidewalk cost-sharing program will be considered by the council. There are about 41 miles of sidewalk within Whitefish city limits. The city’s financial contribution to the cost-sharing arrangement would be limited to removal and replacement of only the portion of sidewalk parallel to the public street. The lead walk, which is the walkway that connects the public sidewalk to the house, as well as the carriage walk that leads from the sidewalk to the curb, would be solely the property owners responsibility and wouldn’t be eligible for the program, according to a report by Public Works Director Craig Workman.

The council will hold a work session from 5 to 6 p.m. to review a proposed ordinance that adds two new sections to city code regarding development standards for multifamily development, as well as mixed-use and non-residential developments.

From 6 to 7 p.m. the council will review the city’s Emergency Operations Plan and Crisis Communications Plan.

The work sessions and the regular meeting, which begins at 7:10 p.m. will be held at Whitefish City Hall.

News Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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