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Missoula County budget hearings advance
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Missoula County budget hearings advance

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The Missoula County Board of Commissioners continued its budget process on Thursday, hearing assessment increase requests.

The only rural special improvement district to have an increased assessment this year is the Sunset West water maintenance district. A special assessment and budget for the Fairgrounds district was also approved by the board of commissioners.

The water district increase is for $66.67, which would bring the annual assessment for each property in that district to $542.22. That rate has not increased since 2018.

"While public works has worked to reduce their budget where possible, this system is aging and just requires additional upkeep," Missoula County Budget Analyst Amanda Henthorne told the commission. "We are expecting a small loss, even with these increased assessments, but we'll attempt to avoid that at all possible costs.

"None of the other rural special improvement district total assessments will increase in the fiscal year 2022."

The fairgrounds special assessment totals $1.4 million. The assessments will "in essence" pay the debt service of construction bonds for Phase 1 of the fairgrounds updates as well as the Rocky Mountain Gardens and Exploration Center.

County officials said individual property assessments may change within some of the districts, based on the division or merger of properties within those districts.

Seeley Lake Refuse District assessments will also go up slightly. The board of commissioners voted to increase assessment rates by $30 to $180 per district property. This change is expected to generate $342,000 for the district, Henthorne said.

There will also be an increase to out-of-district refuse fees and fees for yard debris, which includes appliances and construction materials. Those fees will be in effect on Sept. 1.

Three factors drove the 14% increase to the budget, Henthorne said.

"There's been a higher volume of refuse being delivered to the transfer site, both inside and outside the district. There's a contractual 4% annual increase for hauling and transfer services from Republic Services and we're going to be replacing a piece of a equipment, a backhoe," Henthorne said.

The new backhoe is expected to cost $118,000 and the current backhoe will be used as a backup, county officials said. The last time the Seeley Lake Refuse District assessments were raised was in 2011, from $125 to $150 per district property.

The Missoula County budget will be finalized on Sept. 9. County usage of American Rescue Plan Act funds will begin on Sept. 9 and go through a separate process.

Jordan Hansen covers news and local government for the Missoulian. Shout at him on Twitter @jordyhansen or send him an email at Jordan.Hansen@Missoulian.com

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