Missoula officials discuss more options for special tax district


MISSOULA, Mont. - Monday night, taxpayers representing more than 12 percent of Missoula property protested against a new special tax district that, in its first year, would give the police department $300,000.

"We will not be able to get any monies from that in this coming budget, so that $300,000 we'll have to look for other sources to help fund that," said Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Bender.  

One source could be the city's reserves, but another option is to put the Public Safety and Justice District up to voters.

"The decision of do you put it on the ballot this November, and that's about a $5,000 to $10,000 cost if we put it on that one, because you already have all the other issues on that ballot and that'd be the logical one to go with," said Bender.  

Not everyone agrees.

"I don't think it should be on the ballot, personally. I think the voters sent us a strong message with the protest. I was never in favor of the special district and I'll never be in favor of special districts the way the city administration uses them," said City Council Member Adam Hertz.

"The essential city services that we should be funding are things like police and fire and streets, but instead we are funding taxpayer-funded lobbyists, we're funding research specialists, we're funding additional workers in the office of neighborhoods," Hertz added

While Hertz believes the taxpayers' money is being spent on unnecessary items, Bender insists the problem is constraints put on cities by the state.

"You can't sustain city services with the current structure, so all of the cities in the state have gone to other means of drive and revenue to help support them. Billings has a $20 million special mill levy for public safety," said Bender.

The city council will have to vote on whether to drop the special tax district, or put the issue on November's ballot.   

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