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Billings City Council postpones public safety levy discussion for Wednesday

Posted at 11:24 PM, May 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-27 03:48:32-04

BILLINGS — The Billings City Council voted Tuesday night to move discussion of two proposed public safety mill levy-related ballot measures to occur at a work session scheduled for Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.

Discussion at the meeting on Tuesday was centered on other items including the installation of a portion of sidewalk on Aronson Avenue in the Heights. Discussion stretched the meeting to five hours in length.

Last week, the council directed city staff to research two mill levies to help offset a recurring $5 million defect in the general and public safety funds.

In the items that were postponed, the council would have decided whether to approve mill levy ballot language to have a first reading at a Council meeting scheduled for June 8. The hope is to bring two measures to the voters as early as possible.

One proposed measure would increase the amount of tax revenue levied from a resolution passed in 2004. The Council agenda states this would make the city an additional $4 million per year to pay for the police and fire departments.

The other proposed measure would essentially repeal and replace Parks District 1, the current funding mechanism for the city parks, and replace it with a mill levy of equal size. Combined with shifting parks costs out of the general fund, the city expects to free up $4.3 million to pay for criminal justice and emergency response services.

Council member Penny Ronning encouraged more public comment from Billings residents as the time draws nearer for a decision on the levy proposals.

"I'm a little bit disappointed that we didn't have any public comment of great length. These are the two most important issues In my opinion on the agenda tonight and for our community right now," Ronning said.

RELATED: Billings City Council looking toward smaller levy ask in 2020