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Mail ballots are going out this week asking voters to approve a pair of modest property tax increases to help fund a pair of vital Gallatin County services in the June 2 primary election. Voters are asked to OK a 6-mill increase to fund upgrades in the 911 Dispatch Center and a 2-mill increase to pay for search and rescue operations.

These are vital services the county provides and voters should approve these measures.

The 911 levy will raise some $2.1 million a year to help fund improvements to the system. Currently, first responders answer calls in parts of the county where they do not have radio communications. That needs to be remedied.

The search and rescue levy increase will raise an estimated $700,000 annually and pay for training, buildings and equipment costs for some 150 volunteers who help provide the service. With the large and growing numbers of people locally who engage in backcountry recreation, Gallatin County search and rescue operations are the busiest in the region for a community of this size and must be funded adequately.

The 911 tax increase will cost an estimated $16.20 a year for every $200,000 of taxable home value. The search and rescue levy increase will cost $5.40 annually for $200,000 of taxable value. Remember, taxable value is usually considerably less than the market value of a piece of real estate.

These are difficult times. The coronavirus has stalled the economy and cost a lot of people their jobs. But that doesn’t diminish the need for essential services like search and rescue and 911 emergency communications.

County commissioners have wisely acceded to voters’ wishes and opted not to ask them again to approve tens of millions of dollars needed to build a new law and justice center. Voters rejected that request last year. The two levies on the June ballot are much more modest requests and represent a more realistic approach to financing the needs of first responder services in smaller increments.

Vote yes on these two ballot issues and make sure your ballot makes it to the county courthouse downtown by June 2.

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Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

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