Safety Levy - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

Safety Levy

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A proposed safety levy would add more safety officers to match the Billings' growth, but taxpayer wallets would be a little lighter over the next decade.

The Billings City Council unanimously passed its first reading last night of the Family Safety Levy. After one more approval, it'll be on the November 4th ballot for voters to decide.

The levy would add thirteen more police officers and six more firefighters over the next five years. It'd also add other safety officers and various positions, such as an animal control officer.

A city council report expects the magic city to have 18,000 more people by 2024, and while city administrator Tina Volek says the city is safe right now, she adds, "As we continue to grow, and we are at a rate of 1.8% a year, we need to have more police and fire officers to meet that need."
     
The levy provides three options: one reduces staff, another keeps staff the same, and the recommended option allows for more public safety officers.

Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said an expanded police force will allow the department to keep specialty positions and proactive programs like 'Internet Crimes Against Children.'

"If we start to backslide, or stay stagnant, then those issues become real and they affect everybody," he said.

"Its not an exorbitant request -- we're not asking for super numbers and lots of money, we're just wanting to keep up with community growth."

If the growth option is chosen, the annual tax in fiscal year 2016 on a $200,000 home would be $31, but grows to $325 by 2025.

The city council's second reading is in two weeks, and Volek expects it to pass. If it does, it'll be on this fall's ballot.

Community meetings are set for this fall, starting in September, to inform the community and answer questions.

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