Parks

A boy fishes from a dock on Tuesday afternoon at Bozeman Pond.

Bozeman city commissioners have delayed a decision on a citywide property tax for parks and trails, and could now put the question to voters.

This delay means the commission might not vote on the tax in the fall and allow for public protest, as was the plan last week. Instead, the tax question could be added to either a special election ballot or a school district ballot next May.

The commissioners formally notified city manager Andrea Surratt that they are undecided on which path they will take. They are expected to reconsider the issue again in the coming weeks.

Deputy Mayor Chris Mehl said the commission received lots of feedback after it voted 3-2 last week to decide on the Parks and Trails Special District and allow for public protest.

“Folks were saying in this day and age, we would like to have a vote,” Mehl said.

Commissioners I-Ho Pomeroy and Jeff Krauss voted against the plan for a unilateral commission vote on the special district. If 10% of the affected residents voiced opposition, the vote would have failed.

The special district that would tax property owners is a proposed solution to a $7 million maintenance backlog the city estimates is needed to reach national standards for parks.

The tax would increase over the first five years. A property owner with a 7,500-square-foot lot would pay $135 the first year and $184 by the fifth year. If the tax goes into effect, the city will no longer need to use general fund money for parks maintenance.

An election on the issue would be more expensive for the city than a commission vote. Mehl said that cost is a concern but the key takeaway is that an election is transparent and fair.

Pomeroy said she would like the vote to be delayed until the spring. County commissioners will ask voters to pay for a replacement for the Law and Justice Center on a November ballot, and Pomeroy said she doesn’t want the parks and trails tax to compete with the county’s request.

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