Whitefish could increase budget


KALISPELL, Mont. - Whitefish city officials are beginning to put together their budget for the 2015 fiscal year.

A new city hall, new public bathroom facilities, and a number of projects are currently in the works in Whitefish. It's a busy time for the city.

A proposed budget calls for $5 million more than last year. City Manager Chuck Stearns says at the moment, that won't change what Whitefish residents pay for taxes.

"We've been building up the cash balances for years in storm water, and it's time we got some storm water projects that benefit different areas of town to go ahead and spend that money," said Stearns.

Cash balances are various amounts of money the city has been saving for years. They've been saving for large projects like the ones they've earmarked. But the city still has to look at the mill levies.

The Whitefish Community Library is hoping to increase in its mill levy from 5.4 to 6.2 for a library budget of $210,000, just a small increase over last year.

Library trustee board member Mike Collins says the library has seen an increase in patrons and the library needs more money to better serve the community.

"Just because of Whitefish's location and where residents live around there, it turns out that Whitefish probably serves a far larger area than people that live in the city limits," Collins said.

Stearns says there's still a few months between now and approving the budget.

"People focus on, say, the growth of the budget, but that's still with no tax rate increase, and so if we can do that by spending accumulated cash balances on infrastructure, that's what they expect us to do," said Stearns.

Stearns wanted to reiterate that nothing is final yet. This is just a budget proposal. While not a lot of change is expected, things very well could over the next few weeks.

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