Flathead County Commissioners are proposing a special tax district to provide long-term funding for the Flathead Emergency Communications Center.
Residential property owners might have to pay $25 a year, and it would be $50 a year for commercial properties.
Estimates say it would bring in $1.9 million a year for the center.
Right now, the county pays a flat fee and the cities pay based on their population. None of the current funding pays for capital improvements, like equipment.
The center was built on a $6.9 million bond, but they need more money for equipment. They can’t pay for maintaining communication towers.
“They have some fairly high expenditure costs for some of those tower replacements and tower maintenance,” said Kalispell City Manager Doug Russell.
That’s why the county is proposing a communication district that will include a new tax for residents. But, once a district exists, residents fear it will exist forever.
“It’s never cut and dry. So, if they need money for one thing, they should raise money for one thing and be done with it. Then, two or three years later if they need money again, do it again. Taxes, when you institute a tax it never goes away,” said Bigfork resident David Gaines.
Long-term funding has been in the works since the center was built five years ago.
“I think this is just an answer that everyone seems to really be behind to provide that long-term mechanism,” Russell said.
Some residents agree and say no matter what, they will pay the tax, especially if it means clear communication between law enforcement during emergency situations. Others disagree and don’t think the tax is necessary.
“If they keep doing a levy and another levy, I’m fortunate enough that I am still in my working years and I can make money and pay those things. But I know people that an extra $20 a year is a hardship,” Gaines said.
Ultimately it will be up to voters. The measure for the communication district and possible tax will be put on the November ballot.