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Billings City Council passes 2022 budget and second public safety levy reading

Budget includes $11.6 to buy Stillwater Building
Posted at 11:33 PM, Jun 28, 2021

BILLINGS — The Billings City Council approved the budget for 2022 and approved the second reading of a public safety mill levy at its Monday night meeting.

The budget is worth $434 million and is expected to use $1.3 million from the city reserves. The budget includes money planned to be spent on major construction projects and the addition of 15 full-time staff members across various city departments.

City Finance Director Andy Zoeller called out some projects scheduled for this year. Zoeller said the budget includes $7 million to be spent on Billings Logan International Airport expansion, $80 million for the new West End water treatment plant and $18 million to construct the Inner Belt Loop and Skyline Trail.

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Billings Finance Director Andy Zoeller gives a presentation to the Billings City Council.

Zoeller said there is $11.6 million in the budget allocated to for the city to purchase the Stillwater Building, which was formerly a federal courthouse located at 316 N. 26th St. The city was eyeing the Stillwater Building in 2019 to allow more space for the city's departments and the creation of a law and justice center.

The Stillwater Building in Billings was formerly the James F Battin Federal Courthouse.

The $11.6 million was planned to be spent for law and justice center needs when the Council approved the yearly document that lists planned construction project expenses, called the capital improvement plan, said City Administrator Chris Kukulski.

The law and justice center money was made available when federal Coronavirus relief dollars were allocated to the city to pay for some public safety services during the pandemic. The COVID-19 allocation essentially freed up money in the general fund that could be spent on other things, Zoeller said.

"The majority of the funding is actually going to come from the general fund, which exists because we were fortunate enough to receive CARES Act funding for other public safety expenses. We freed up general funds for the purchase of that building," Zoeller said

City Administrator Chris Kukulski said the price for the building is actually $17 million, plus the money it would take to build out structure for the city's needs. A buy/sell agreement will be brought before the Council for a decision in two weeks at its July 12 meeting.

The budget also adds 15 full-time positions across different city departments. Some of the positions include an administrative assistant and municipal court prosecutor for the legal department, a code enforcement supervisor and public information officer, among others.

The council also approved the second reading of a public safety mill levy that would bring in an additional $7.1 million dollars to the city. The money would be spent growing police, fire, legal, code enforcement, and substance abuse resources in Billings.

The levy would also eliminate the $1.3 million expected to be spent from reserves to balance the budget in 2022

Now the levy's future depends on the voters in an election scheduled for November 2.

If approved by the voters, the owner of a Billings home worth $217,000 (the median home value in the city) would pay an additional $100.41 per year on their property tax bill.

RELATED: Public safety levy passes Billings City Council first reading