Broadwater County Commission Declares Budget Crash
By Tim Ravndal
At the regular meeting held Monday August 6th the commission was prepared to move forward with finalizing the fiscal year budget including awarding requests for PILT (payment in leu of taxes) funding. The PILT funding in part is used to offset shortages and can be applied to unforeseen expenses. From time to time the commission has awarded requests to multiple different departments to help make their budgets whole.
Budget deadlines for the county are looming and the push is on to finalize the fiscal year budget for all departments. All departments were asked to look for ways to cut their budgets due to lower projected revenues.
Two weeks ago, the Montana Department of Revenue released its fiscal year taxable valuations that are used to establish local government revenue forecasts. Commissioner Mike Delger announced that the values submitted by the state are completely erroneous. Delger went on to say the assessment does not reflect the actual growth in Broadwater County over the past year. After extensive discussion on the valuation the commission declared they will challenge the Department of Revenue on its findings. This challenge will be initiated by a letter to the department asking for a valuation review.
In the meantime, the county is required by law to finalize its budget or face penalties by the state. County Attorney Cory Swanson asked to clarify when the absolute deadline would be for submitting the final fiscal year budget. Commissioner Obert stated it was August 20th and disagreed with the legal analysis of the statute provided by Mr. Swanson and urged the full commission to move forward.
An earlier motion made by Commissioner Obert to freeze certain departmental budgets failed to get support. Public Safety Department representative Brandon Harris raised concern that the public safety budget was already short. Mr. Swanson requested more time to look at the new valuation numbers. Mr. Swanson also stated there may be different options available before a final decision had to be made. After further discussion the commission agreed to do a full across the board budget freeze. This action would place all departments on last year’s fiscal budget.
The commission also discussed the revenue request made by the Broadwater County Hospital District. The request made last week to have the $200,000.00 per year levy placed before the voters of the county moved forward. The levy would run for 3 years and the voters would then have the option to renew or terminate the levy. The Hospital District revised its resolution for the levy request by agreeing to putting restrictions on what that funding could be used for. The new restrictions state that it can only be spent on maintenance and repairs of the county owned building.
The Hospital District submitted their budget last week and in that was a request for over $300,000.00 from PILT to cover the cost of repairs needed. Today in light of the new budget shortfalls, the commission agreed to provide the Hospital District around $100K from PILT. The agreement stipulated that the funding would be for specific repairs only and would need to have final accurate cost for those repairs prior to funding.
Commissioner Delger was asked to address the alleged conflict of interest with his serving on the Townsend Health Systems Board of Directors. Commissioner Obert stated there was no conflict because this has been reviewed by Montana Association of Counties. County Attorney Cory Swanson disagreed stating the law is clear and MACO is wrong. Mr. Delger was advised he should not be on the board.
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