City Council Discusses Public Safety Levy - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

City Council Discusses Public Safety Levy

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Public safety is a concern for many people. Knowing that, Billings City Council met Wednesday night for a pre-budget work session to discuss the possibility of a public safety levy and other budget items.

The levy would go to fund organizations like the Police Department and Fire Department. The last public safety levy was passed in 2004 and designed to sustain a 10-year period.

"We're at that 10 year period," said Mayor Tom Hanel. "What we're looking at is the increased need for service in the area of public safety and with that increased need does come costs."

Billings Police say they need additional revenue to keep up with the increasing costs of doing business. Officials estimate the population to increase 1.5 percent each year. Police want to add 2 more officers each year for the next five years for the patrol division to match that growth and provide the same level of service.

"Our calls for service for 2013 surpassed that of 2012," Chief Rich St. John with the Billings Police Department. "And that was 73,000 calls and we're going to surpass that. So just pure logic that more people added to the mix is going to increase the requirement for public safety."

If there is no new funding, the city will have to lay off personnel, an estimate of a 19 to 21 percent reduction in the Police Department and about a 25 percent reduction in the Fire Department by 2019.

"We don't want to have calls go unanswered," Chief St. John said. "We don't want to have increased response times and we don't want to see crime creep in here more than it already is because we don't have the assets and personnel to deal with it, so it's a community issue and the community needs to decide what level of public safety they want."

Ultimately, city leaders encourage public discussion and input.