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Billings City Council mulling how to whittle $6 million from 2020 budget

Posted at 11:00 PM, Jun 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-17 14:48:47-04

BILLINGS – Billings City Council members discussed Monday how to offset a predicted $6 million budget shortfall for 2020 in the general and public safety funds.

Most of the discussion centered around what council members would like to do with Parks District 1.

At last week’s meeting, Billings City Administrator Chris Kukulski suggested moving $2.5 million of the parks budget within the general fund into the Parks District 1 assessment. This would cut in half the amount that the city would have to dip into reserves to cover the shortfall in its two largest pots of money.

The question was whether to move the $2.5 million from the parks budget in one chunk in one year, spread it out over two years, or not move it at all. Not moving the money at all would force the city to make a larger dip into the reserve fund.

Council member Shaun Brown thinks the movement of the parks budget is almost inevitable.

“Fiscally, I don’t see how we get around it,” Brown said. “We as a council, we’ve got to be sure we get a budget in here that continues to at least maintain where we’re at.”

If the $2.5 million of parks and rec spending was moved from the general fund into the Parks 1 District, a separate fund for accounting purposes, the city would still be about $3 million short in filling the budget gap.

One option: Council members and city staff are looking at asking voters to approve a public safety mill levy.

City Administrator Chris Kukulski made a point to mention there is no law requiring the city to adopt a budget by July 1, which is what city officials had tentatively targeted as a deadline to pass the budget.

Taxable value calculated by the state is not released until August. That amount would likely affect how much tax money is available in Parks District 1.

Council members will meet again Monday, June 24.