Wild

In this Chronicle file photo, cross-country skiers enjoy the groomed trails near Lindley Park in Bozeman. 

In the latest effort to find more money for Bozeman’s parks and trails upkeep, city commissioners will decide Monday when to ask voters to OK a new property tax in 2020.

City leaders have been filtering through options for months to pay for an estimated $7 million maintenance backlog for Bozeman’s parks and trails after hitting roadblocks in their first attempts.

Commissioners will decide Monday whether to pitch a Parks and Trails Special District to voters through the school district ballot in May or go for a special election in March.

City Manager Andrea Surratt recommended commissioners go with the first plan, according to city documents. That would likely put city and Bozeman School Board tax requests on the same ballot.

A special election could avoid the potential of competing money requests on one ballot but cost Bozeman $100,000 — twice as much as the shared election in May.

According to documents headed before the commission, the district lines up with city officials’ vision to be a well-planned city as defined by Bozeman’s strategic plan.

“We consistently improve our community’s quality of life as it grows and changes, honoring our sense of place and the ‘Bozeman feel’ as we plan for a livable, affordable, more connected city,” according to the plan.

After a review put a price on the list of repairs the city’s outdoor spaces need, commissioners voted last year to raise the standard for park maintenance to better line up with national upkeep averages.

That also meant they needed to find a way to grow the city’s pot of money for that work.

Last March, commissioners agreed to put a parks and trails plan before voters in November. Soon after, city staff discovered a state law prevented them from including that request on a general election.

A few months later, a majority of commissioners sided with a backup plan: get the money through a unilateral commission vote that property owners could protest to avoid. Both commissioners Jeff Krauss and I-Ho Pomeroy voted against that route.

The commission quickly backtracked that decision after a slew of public pushback advocated that the future of the proposed tax get decided at the polls.

In a joint October meeting, school officials told Bozeman commissioners they’re still deciding what all will go on the May ballot.

The school district will likely ask voters for an operating fund tax increase. Officials also plan to eventually ask for millions of dollars to build Bozeman’s ninth elementary school, though when that happens is still uncertain.

At that meeting, both city and school board officials said it’s frustrating they’re main path to get more money is to keep going back to property owners who are feeling the pressure from Bozeman’s rising cost of living. Each have supported the longtime failed effort to convince the state Legislature to allow local option sales taxes. They said that push continues to be on their radar for the next time lawmakers meet.

The Bozeman City Commission will meet Monday at 6 p.m., at City Hall, 121 North Rouse.

Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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