Gallatin County Courthouse File

The sun sets on the Gallatin County Courthouse on Feb. 3.

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The Gallatin County Commission this week approved its budget for the upcoming fiscal year with substantial increases in spending across the board.

The commission approved the final Fiscal Year 2022 budget of over $226 million at Tuesday’s meeting, a near 24% increase from last year’s final budget. The tax revenue the county will use for general operations is projected to increase by more than $2.6 million, or a 6.4% increase from last year.

The approval marked the end of a months-long process that began in February. A chunk of the new budget is dedicated to an increase in personnel cost, which jumped to around $41.8 million, a roughly $4.4 million increase from last year.

Pay increases came from the creation of a new classified employee pay system that was installed earlier this year. The new payment plan was meant to increase employee salaries to get up to market value in Gallatin County. Most employees received a 6% increase, while others received a one-time 2% raise.

The commission voted to increase elected officials’ pay by 7% in June, along with a 9% increase to the sheriff to help bolster the pay of captains in the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, whose pay is based on a percentage of the sheriff’s salary.

Total capital outlay costs — or money used for things like equipment, roads and more — increased by about $26 million, with a total of around $68 million.

Much of that increase is going toward a road and infrastructure fund for the county’s road and bridge department. New taxes were not used for that fund and instead came from redistributing the county option tax.

In addition to approving the final budget, the commission also adopted mills to help pay for the increases. Justine Swanson, Gallatin County chief financial officer, said that the commission has made an effort to not levy the maximum amount of mills, which helps to keep taxes lower.

“The commission has done a good job at keeping taxes low, while still approving needed increases for county operations,” Swanson said during the meeting.

The value of an individual mill increased by about 19% this year, or up to $437,000, Swanson said. But just because the value of a mill goes way up does not mean that the tax base increases accordingly, she said.

State law only allows the county to capture the value of newly taxable property, which accounts for new additions to property like a garage.

“A simple way to say that is that your market value, or what your house is listed for or estimated to list for on Zillow, is not the same as taxable value,” said County Commissioner Zach Brown. “And in Gallatin County taxable value is much, much lower than market value.”

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Alex Miller is the county and state government reporter and can be reached at amiller@dailychronicle.com or by phone at 406-582-2648.

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