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‘Tight budget:’ Gallatin County first look at budget shows increases, reflects growth

Posted at 7:31 PM, Jul 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-02 21:31:20-04

Gallatin County commissioners are planning big for the future of the county budget.

They say it’s because they have to — and it will require some big spending to catch up with all of the area growth.

Gallatin County Commissioner Don Seifert used the word “tight” to describe the preliminary budget.

That’s how the board says they have to think, financially, moving forward.

“The preliminary budget is the budget that takes into effect what we generally think our valuations are going to be,” Seifert says.

The commissioner put it simply: when it comes to a growing county, you have to have a growing budget.

“The reason that our budget is what we call tight right now is because even with all the growth that happens in Gallatin County, there’s more and more demands put on the services,” Seifert says.

That means supporting employees, like years past.

“Last year, we gave our employees a six percent raise,” Seifert says. “That included cost of living and merit increases and that type of thing. We did that three percent on July 1 and then three percent on January 1, so those dollars have to be figured out into our preliminary budget.”

And a significant boost to the Gallatin Rest Home.

This year, the county had to supplement about $462,000 to the home from the current budget.

Seifert says there’s a good reason why.

“It costs about $282 per bed per Medicaid patient in the rest home, but Medicaid is only reimbursing somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,” Seifert says.

From increased investments to finding 14 new full-time positions, including seven in the sheriff’s department, that being said, alone, there’s a lot to cover.

Next year, the county anticipates spending about $156.9 million. 

That includes supporting employees from across 20 different departments. 

That’s about 500 or more employees and 10 outside organizations. 

But when you put all of the raises together from those employees also anticipated for next year, that’s over $928,000 collectively needed.

All of it, he says, can be brought back to massive area growth.

“We are at three percent growth,” Seifert says. “Just to kind of put that into perspective, three percent growth is equal to the population of Three Forks and Manhattan every year moving into Gallatin County. That’s over 10 people a day.”

The community will get five chances over the next several weeks to weigh in on the preliminary budget before it needs to be finalized in August.

So, Seifert says a lot of this might change along the way before the budget gets there.