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Billings council approves $320 million budget, which includes park money and cuts franchise fees

Posted at 7:30 PM, Jun 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-26 21:30:18-04
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiHSdT8Wxvc?rel=0&showinfo=0]

BILLINGS- At a marathon session Monday night, the Billings City Council approved a $320 million budget for the coming fiscal year.

Among the highlights in the newly approved budget:

  • New 3-year collective bargaining agreements for police and fire personnel, designed to keep pace with cost of living adjustments.
  • The council also agreed to spend $2 million in reserves to begin improvements on Centennial Park on the city’s west end, the first new park development in Billings in more than three decades. 
  • The council also agreed to levy the maximum amount of mills allowed in the city’s charter – taxes that will be used to offset the loss of revenue from city franchise fees – that are the subject of a current court challenge.

Billings Mayor Bill Cole said Tuesday the bottom line for local taxpayers ios the cost of local government is going up.

"We definitely made some changes, all of them positive. The cost of government is going to go up. Utility bills, for example, we haven’t increased for a couple of years – so those are going up. That’s the bad news," Cole told Q2 News. "The good news is that we’ve gotten rid of the franchise fee. That saves taxpayers about $2.5 million a year. So the net impact of those utility bills will not really be significant at least for this first year."

The franchise fee was the subject of a lawsuit filed in May by six Billings rate payers who argued it amounted to a stealth sales tax. The city collected $2.5 million in franchise fees in 2017 on top of its water, sewer and garbage rates. 

Cole will present the annual State of the City address at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the City/County luncheon at the Northern Hotel.

Yellowstone County Commissioner John Ostlund will also present the State of the County address