Bozeman City Hall

A look at Bozeman City Hall on Rouse Avenue.

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Bozeman city commissioners are scheduled to vote Monday night on a final budget for the coming year after weeks of reviewing projected revenues and proposed expenses.

City staff drafted a $121 million budget for commissioners to consider. That draft would have the typical property owner pay $2,568 in taxes and assessments this year, which is an increase of $103 over last year, or about $8.60 per month.

Commissioners will have the opportunity to amend the budget before voting on Monday.

The city’s fiscal year begins July 1, so commissioners have to approve a budget before the end of June. If the commission runs out of time for a vote on Monday night, they’ll meet again Tuesday.

Major topics of discussion have included the new, voter-approved parks and trails fee, which will show up on next year’s taxes, and how much the city will keep in general fund reserves. Over the last several weeks, the commission has heard from hundreds of people calling for police reform in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. Many are asking for redistribution of the city’s $10 million police budget to social services.

These topics are likely to come up again on Monday. Mayor Chris Mehl said the commission has always been responsive to requests from residents, and that he hopes the police budget does come up again during discussions Monday.

Mehl said he looks at the budget through the lens of how much the average homeowner will pay in taxes, and what that person or family gets in return in services. Bozeman doesn’t collect income or sales tax, so it all comes down to property.

“Compared to other cities, I think we provide a pretty good bang for the buck,” Mehl said.

If the proposed budget is adopted as is, average property owners will see about $70 shaved off what they pay in property taxes, which will be replaced by a $135 fee for the new parks and trails district. The fee will replace the roughly $80 a year typical residents have paid for parks through property taxes.

The district was created to deal with a $7 million parks maintenance backlog. It will also allow the city to take over parks maintained by homeowners’ associations in hopes that residents won’t be charged for parks twice.

Staff are also proposing an 8% increase in the annual city street assessment, which shows up in property taxes. That revenue from pays for a growing street network and other projects.

The arterial street assessment is set to increase by $1.55 for a typical resident. That’s meant to offset a 50% reduction in state gas tax revenue that’s predicted due to the pandemic. That money helps pay for construction, improvement and maintenance of city streets.

Stormwater fees are slated for a 5% increase to “keep up with growth and construction costs,” according to the proposed budget. Water and sewer rates are not set to stay the same as last year.

Staff recommend the city add 20.29 FTE in staffing, which will help the parks and recreation and public works departments add employees, while also helping the city make adjustments in pay to be competitive in Bozeman’s job market, according to the proposed budget.

Bozeman property owners will see an increase in the amount they pay for the public safety center over last year. The tax, which is included in property tax assessments, is proposed to increase from $71.48 to $88.37. The city only made a partial payment on the project last year, and this year will make the first full payment.

The city is planning on $7.5 million in new street projects and $5.8 million in water and sewer projects over the next year.

Mehl said the commission will also discuss on Monday requests for city money from local nonprofits. Staff are proposing allocating $30,000 to Haven, Bozeman’s shelter for survivors of domestic violence, and $150,000 to Streamline, a free bus service of the Human Resource Development Council.

A number of people spoke up during last Monday’s meeting calling on commissioners to increase the amount going to Streamline. Sunshine Ross, director of the bus service, said she had requested $300,000, and that it will be a tough year if only half the request is filled.

“Without funding, we will have to make some difficult decisions,” Ross said.

Buck Taylor, a spokesperson for Community Health Partners, also spoke in support of full funding for Streamline. He said many people in need of CHP services use Streamline to get to one of the clinics or to other social services, a need that becomes more apparent as Bozeman grows.

“Our community can be an expensive place to live, work and thrive,” Taylor said.

Mehl said the commission could possibly put more money towards area nonprofits, like HRDC, Haven or the Help Center.

Mehl said he will also be looking for places to cut spending. For example, city staff are recommending that the general fund’s reserve be increased from 16.67% to 17% to follow national best practices. Mehl said he’s not sure that’s necessary right now, especially given the economic recession.

“At the end of the day, I think we’re going to find some ways to tighten things up,” Mehl said.

Monday’s city commission meeting will be held virtually, beginning at 6 p.m.

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Shaylee Ragar can be reached at sragar@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2607.

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