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$143M Billings parks bond takes drubbing at hands of voters

Parks sign bond
Posted at 8:23 PM, Nov 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-08 10:47:10-05

BILLINGS — A big-ticket parks bond took a drubbing from Billings voters Tuesday night, failing by a margin of more than 2 to 1.

The bond only managed to gain the support of about 31 percent of the electorate in early returns Tuesday. The first count showed no votes winning 20,937 to 9,309.

Yellowstone County elections officials say they expect to release one last group of results Tuesday night, but those votes are unlikely to change the outcome.

The $143 million bond would have provided (d) funds for 16 different projects, including a multi-generational recreation center that will would have brought new courts, classrooms, ice rinks, and more to Amend Park.

The bond comes at a time when costs of living and property taxes are increasing across Montana and the project would have added $52.66 for every $100,000 of property.

Supporters launched a large campaign to try to push the bond through, led by the community group Play It Forward.

"One of the reasons we felt so strongly about passage of this Bond was the tremendous investment it would have made in our youth. Billings is changing, and as we grow, we must provide more assets for our kids and grandkids that result in healthy, safe, and positive interactions. We are sad to see that, despite our best efforts, the projects contained in this Bond will not become a reality at this time. We remain committed to making Billings a more vibrant city, and each of us will continue to be involved in civic and philanthropic endeavors in our personal and professional capacities moving forward. While we had hoped for a different outcome, we will never stop working on behalf of the city we love. We encourage city leadership, including the newly elected City Council members, to consider a future ballot measure that will appropriately invest in our shared community assets," the group said in a statement.

Mayor Bill Cole pledged $500,000 of his own money to offset the cost of some of the projects.

"Well, obviously it's disappointing, but when the people speak, the people speak, so we'll move on. The reality is though, that the need for large park facilities, recreation facilities, none of that has gone away. So we'll continue to work on that as best we can, but we'll need to move forward Based on what the public has told us, our need for investing in our parts will not go away, has not gone away. But we also have other needs in our community," Cole said Tuesday night.

A closer look: Billings parks bond