You can see it all here, on the city’s 2022 Budget site.
In the Missoulian article about the new budget, lots of big numbers are thrown around.
$3.5 million for veteran and homeless housing…$3 million to upgrade first responders’ communications equipment…$2.7 million for affordable housing.
Those 3 items right there amount to over $9 million in new spending...on top of the $204 million in spending we had last year...spending which left us with a $14 million budget deficit.
Now, I’m sure some of these items (and the millions in spending I didn’t mention, but which the Missoulian does), are indeed justified.
But I’m awfully worried about creating all this new spending when the city is currently complaining that they don’t have enough revenue sources now, hence the need for this local option marijuana tax.
And trust me, this new pot tax is a joke. The city will get $322,000 a year, and expects that to help relieve the monumental property tax burden that every homeowner is feeling, and now most of the renters as well.
What’s that piddly amount going to do...lower everyone’s bill by $4, maybe $5 a year? Wow...thanks.
It’s not revenue that’s the issue - Missoula has a spending problem. I already told you last week how we could get rid of that budget deficit, but it’d take some hard cuts, and I don’t think either the city council or the public has the stomach for it.
So Missoula will sink further and further into debt, allocating more and more of its budget each year just to service that debt, and let’s not even get into how we’ll pay the principal down, and how long that’ll take.
Meanwhile, Missoula spending will keep going up, and taxes will have to increase to pay for it. The Fed can’t keep interest rates down forever, and soon the $15 million we spend each year to service our debt could grow a lot more.
Remember, in 2018 interest rates rose to 2.5% and nearly crashed the economy, so the Fed backed off and lowered them again. If we can’t even take that modest increase, how can we pull ourselves out of the nearly $30 trillion we find ourselves in nationally today?
But I digress.
The first department coming up for budget requests and review is the Fire Department next week, and then the Police the following week.
The fire department is asking for 13 new budget items, totalling nearly $1.3 million.
The most expensive of these is the $525,000 needed for the Mobile Support Team Program, though if you add in the $97,000 the Critical Incident Team Program wants, it’s really more like $620,000.
After that the department requests money for more overtime ($105,000), as well as more protective equipment ($400,000).
In contrast, the police department is asking for 10 new budget items, totalling $1.8 million.
Their most expensive item is the Public Safety Mobile Response Unit, which requires $450,000 next year.
It’s important to remember that when this project started nearly a year ago, the goal was to divert money away from the police and to this new unit of “behavioral health experts.”
Currently the funding is still allocated to (or perhaps through) the police department. Does that mean the behavioral staff works in the police department...or are they separate? It’s hard to say.
After that it’s $345,000 to add five new police cars and one new motorcycle to the fleet. They’d like to hire two new corporals, at a cost of $329,000 and want to increase the bailiff/reserve officer training program by $344,000.
Those four things alone come to $1.4 million.
It’ll be interesting to see how the city council haggles over these numbers, perhaps suggesting that just one new corporal is needed, or maybe three new cars, and no new funding for the reserve training program, give that to the new crisis outreach teams instead.
That’s what I expect. In the past they’ve been swept-up in the defund the police nonsense, and have withheld or diverted funds.
But I’m sure the city council will approve the $63,000 they themselves requested in constituent engagement resources, which is a shady way of saying free political mailings.
Police, fire and the city council all fall under the purview of general fund funding, and total new requests are $14 million this year spread across the 17 agencies pulling funding from that source.
Parks and Roads want another $3 million in new spending.
General Fund Special, Enterprise Funds, and Special Revenue want $4 million in new funding.
Here are some of the larger items from the various agencies’ want-lists that I hope we as a community and our media talk about more (but I doubt we will):
- $850,000 for Development Services to do a “comprehensive code reform,” listed as urgent
- $311,000 for an emergency winter shelter through the Housing & Community Development agency
- $211,000 for the Pov
- $3.5 million extra to expand the Pov and create more shelter capacity off-site
- $250,000 to expand SNAP benefits
- $??? (TDB) for Operation Safe Shelter (which I imagine is going to be a new safe outdoor space or some such)
- $404,000 for non-union wage increases in the Non-Department
- $200,000 for a city-wide compensation plan adjustment
- $600,000 to expand the animal shelter
- $195,000 for a bike lane sweeper
- $801,000 to hire six new street maintenance department workers
- $160,000 to manage Parks & Recreation turf
- $120,000 in contracted out services with Parks & Rec...despite them having 73 full-time workers
- $150,000 for professional services with Parks & Rec
- $35,000 for Parks & Rec to hold “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice Initiative” training
- $322,000 for increased health insurance premiums
- $206,000 for R&D work at the wastewater treatment plant and the compost company we took over five years ago
I honestly wonder if we need all that.
All told, your city government wants $27.6 million in new spending for 2022.