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Property taxpayers will see lower county tax levies on their property tax bills this year, in Yellowstone County, because the overall amount of taxable value on property in the county has increased by $24.88 million. Over half of that increase is due to new construction – new wealth – in the county.  

Total tax revenue for county government is projected to increase by $2.86 million in the current year.  New construction is projected to generate $1.99 million of that total, which is that much less that all other taxpayers will have to pay.

The County’s Finance Department is hammering out the FY2019-20 budget for the county, to be considered by county commissioners at their September 3 meeting. It is projecting expenditures of $117.5 million, less than one percent more than last year. Of that, $54.6 million is projected to come from property tax payers in Yellowstone County.

Non-tax revenues are projected to increase by 3.15% over FY19 to $48.25 million. 

According to Finance Director Kevan Bryan, the increase in overall valuations led to slight declines in almost all levies.  FY20 will see a decrease in the countywide levy of 1.71 mills, or 1.43% below last year’s levy total.  Bryan declared, “…the County is in sound financial shape. This is due to both decisions by the Board and the budgeting and spending approaches undertaken by our departments throughout the County.” 

The tax levy for the Big Sky Economic Development Authority is fully authorized by the Board of County Commissioners for FY20, in the amount of 3.24 mills, an increase of $56,959.

The permissive medical levy will be set at 11.84 mills.  While continued escalation of costs warrant this slight increase of .22 mills, said Bryan, the State of Montana allows the county to levy up to 16.56 mills.  County Commissioners have chosen not to levy that amount, “thus saving the taxpayers $1.79 million.”

Because it is still too early to know what protests might be filed regarding property valuations, it is prudent in the process of budget-setting, for the county to error on the side of caution and make allowances for potential protested taxes. Bryan increased the set-aside for estimated tax protestes for FY20 to 4.0% for most levied funds, up from 2.4% last year.   

Staffing levels are budgeted to increase 1.8%, almost completely due to continued public safety and judicial related needs.  Of the total 8.5 FTEs projected to be added, 8 fall into this category. 

The budget allows room for the possible need for building projects and remodeling of courthouse space (or further utilization of the Stillwater building), should it be needed by the County Attorney or Justice Court, two departments that are facing “operational stress” due to increased workload and staffing in their current space.

Now that the construction of a new addition and remodeling and refurbishing of the jail is wrapping up, the county’s next major infrastructure needs are those for Metra Park. An infrastructure study of Metra Park, conducted last year, showed several million dollars of underground needs for that facility.

“Funding for those projects will prove difficult,” said Bryan, “We have been as proactive as possible with limited resources for the task.  The County has saved $3.2 million that can be utilized to begin this long process.” Administrators will be working to develop a prioritized list in the coming months.

The final budget must be adopted by the later of the first Thursday in September or 30 days after the State provides certified taxable values.