Family Safety Levy - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

Family Safety Levy

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The Billings city council takes its first steps to decide whether to put the public safety levy, now called the family safety levy, on the November ballot.

Billings Fire Chief Paul Dextras says there is a growing need in the community for more firefighters, especially as the city grows.

Suppressing fires and responding to medical emergencies, just two of the life-saving services billings firefighters provide in our community.

"With our expanding community, both in population, square mileage, and demand for these essential services, it's important to the community if they want to maintain that level of service to support police and fire," Dextras says.

City administrator Tina Volek says about 58 percent of the general fund goes towards public safety. She says there is about a 1.5 percent growth in population each year, growth in mileage, and an increase of about 32 percent in calls to dispatchers in the last five years. City staffers are making a recommendation to place the levy on the November ballot to add police officers, firefighters, and 911 dispatchers over the next five years.

Dextras says 83 percent of their budget goes toward staff. “If we have to cut a budget because there's not available funds in the general fund to support that, we're going to be reducing personnel which means we're going to be either browning out or not having as many people in fire stations, closing fire stations."

According to Chief Dextras, BFD gets about 11,000 calls each year. “This service that's provided to the community by Billings Fire Department, which again, we run 70 percent of our calls are related to medical emergencies, is so important to not only the quality of life but to those families who are impacted by the services we provide."

The next step will be taken during the city council meeting on July 14 where city council members can decide to hold a public hearing and decide on whether to approve the ordinance which would place the levy on the ballot.

If the council wants to put the levy on the November ballot, they have a few more steps after next Monday’s meeting. Two more readings take place, and then council members must get the language into the elections office by August 11.