Now in their fourth discussion regarding the public safety mill levy, Billings City Council and city staff have come together to once again work on laying the ground work for the levy.
Council members are continuing for ways to cover the cap in funding for emergency services while also reducing the amount of money needed through the public safety mill levy.
One measure being discussed this week is the possibility of charging people a fee each time they use a emergency service.
"Police on average they are responding to about 3900 to 4000 accidents a year... fire for their rescue and emergency calls are responding to 73 hundred calls per year. if we implemented a hundred dollar charge, that's where you are seeing potential revenue could be as high as 525 thousand dollars."
City Administrator Chris Kukulski says this is a model that has worked for small communities in other states but if council is not on board with the idea, he would like to make progress in other areas.
Of the revisions made by city staff, they have proposed to scale back the public safety investment plan. This would mean that minor changes would come to municipal courts and the fire department cutting roughly five positions that would save abut $500,000 per year.
City staff also reduced the law enforcement requests by 12 officers which saves approximately $1 million. The proposed change to the police department would then provide an additional two officers around the clock for each of the first three years then adding one officers each of the final two years as part of the five year needs.
Possible solutions city staff have come up with to generate additional revenue sources include increasing municipal infractions. The current typical cost of a municipal infraction is about $110 per offense but under Billings Municipal Code a civil penalty up to $300 could be imposed.
If council were to adopt the local code changes increasing the minimum fee, each additional $50 would generate an estimated $200,000 annually.
For example, if the city were to charge a $100 fee for emergency service calls, the police department would potentially generate $175,000 while the fire department could generate $350,000.