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County commission approves largest budget to date, property taxes to increase

Posted at 11:22 AM, Sep 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-03 13:22:13-04

BOZEMAN, Mont. – Gallatin County commissioners approved a $170 million budget for next year, which is about a $20 million increase from the current year’s budget.

Financial Analyst Justine Swanson said 14 county positions will be added, including two new deputies, a detective, and two new motor vehicle department employees.

Swanson said the addition of these positions along with the money going towards the voter-approved open space levy will account for a big chunk of the county’s expenses.

“A lot of it is associated with the growth,” said Swanson. “We have seen an almost $20 million increase in the expenses but also increases in our revenues that are coming from that.”

Swanson said the increase the county will see for the next year regarding non-tax revenues is equal to about $11 million. As far as property tax increase for county residents, the owner of a $300,000 residential home will see an increase of $46 dollars. Commissioner Steve White said half of this will go towards the open space program.

“It’s certainly a lot of money but you know, there are just a lot of needs that occur with a growing county,” said White. “20 dollars is certainly 20 dollars but we also have to deal with some of the needs of our government.”

Scott MacFarlane, who is running against White this year for county commissioner, said he agrees with most of the budget but wishes the county would have put more aside for county employee wages, such as the Sheriff’s Office and 911 Center.

“We tend not to be very competitive with our neighboring counties with sheriffs’ wages and we all hate to see our good sheriffs go to neighboring communities to work,” said MacFarlane. “We should have the best sheriffs in our state in Gallatin County. ”

Swanson said commissioners had the option to increase the tax by another $11 dollars per home but decided against it. She said in the past years the commission has always been relatively conservative when spending tax payer’s dollars and this year was no different.