Kalispell Council approves $80 million budget

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The Kalispell City Council on Monday approved a $80 million budget for fiscal year 2020, but postponed a decision on the city’s financial contribution to the Flathead City-County Health Department.

“Think about how far $80 million goes at the local level,” Mayor Mark Johnson pointed out at the end of the meeting.

The council discussed 13 resolutions related to various components of the 2020 budget. They unanimously passed 12 of the resolutions as proposed in the meeting agenda, but tabled a resolution to set Kalispell’s 2020 annual tax levy to the Health Department until the next council meeting.

Resolution items discussed as part of the budget approval included tax levies, mill levies and appropriations for various funds, among other considerations. City Manager Doug Russell discussed the mill levy and appropriations, explaining the mill levy, “met the goal of what council was looking for.

“Everything else, for the most part, stayed the same within the budget,” Russell added. “We do have increased expenditures from the preliminary budget, but the majority of that is through carryover expenses.” These expenses, he emphasized, are “nothing significant.”

Russell also explained the impact of the state’s property valuations, which the council received earlier this month, on the mill levy. He noted there was a “pretty significant increase” in the valuation of the mill along with a corresponding decrease in the number of mills being levied. These numbers, however, could change by the time the mill levy “actually gets enacted,” according to Russell.

He said it is currently “impossible to say” exactly how the mill levy will impact the average taxpayer.

The council also discussed at length the annual tax levy the city of Kalispell will pay into the Health Department for the upcoming fiscal year. Public Health Officer Hillary Hanson with the City-County Health Department addressed the council from the county’s perspective and provided an update on the state of the Health Department’s funding.

She reported the cash reserve that had lowered the levy for the previous few years is “now gone.”

“That’s why we’re going up to a higher mill,” Hanson explained. She added, “We’re still below the max amount that we can mill for.”

She clarified, “it looks like kind of a big increase this year,” because of various components with “the cash reserve being a big one.”

Multiple council members, including Mayor Johnson, expressed a desire to learn more about the issue before approving it. The council therefore decided to pass a motion to “table” this resolution, hold a workshop on the issue with the Health Department and take action on it at Sept. 3 council meeting.

Further details on each individual resolution and a video recording of the meeting are available on the city’s website: https://media.avcaptureall.com/session.html?sessionid=0e2a4de1-39f6-47eb-b5fa-3dcd6cff79ca&prefilter=826,5879

In other business, the council decided to move the appointment of Wesley Barr as a firefighter to the next council meeting because Barr couldn’t be present at Monday’s meeting.

Council member Rod Kuntz announced parking permits for the Flathead High School residential parking district are now available. According to Kuntz, all residents in this district are entitled to two free parking permits they can collect at the police station.

There was also time for the public to comment on issues not addressed in the meeting agenda, and Jim Atkinson spoke regarding the Museum at Central School. Atkinson offered an update on the current attractions at the museum and implored the council “to give great consideration to the heating system that has gone south in the museum.” He estimated it would cost $70,000 to “redo and replace the heating system.”

Russell provided a preview of the council work session, which will be held at 7 p.m. Aug. 26 in the City Council Chambers, 201 First Avenue E.

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at bserbin@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4459.

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