Missoula County Commissioners offer the FY19 preliminary budget for public comment and Chief Financial Officer Andrew Czorny offers a presentation on the preliminary budget at the commissioners' public hearing July 26 at 2 p.m. Commissioners spent nearly 60 hours meeting with the county’s independently elected officials, chief officers, department heads and the county’s budget team since March to develop the preliminary budget. Attachments A, B and C offer helpful information on revenues, expenditures and mill levies.
The budget is considered preliminary because revenue numbers must be estimated prior to receiving certified taxable values from the Montana Department of Revenue (DOR) in early August. This fiscal year, Chief Financial Officer Andrew Czorny estimated a 2.4% increase in county-wide revenue and 1.7% increase in county-only revenue from taxable value and new property taxes derived from new construction coming on to the tax rolls. The release of the certified values will likely modify the preliminary budget. The modifications will be captured in the county’s final budget and provided to the public prior to the final budget hearing on August 23 at 2 p.m. The budget will be considered for final adoption at an administrative meeting with the commissioners the following week to allow the commissioners additional time weigh public comment that may occur at the final budget hearing.
Each year, the county commissioners are presented with requests to fund new and expanded initiatives, projects, operations, personnel and capital. Some requests require funding in just one fiscal year, referred to as “one-time,” new snow tires for example. Other requests require funding every fiscal year, referred to as “ongoing,” increased food costs at the detention center for example. One-time requests, if approved by the commissioners, are typically covered by savings in a fund from the prior year’s budget. Ongoing requests may have grant funding already secured to cover the cost, may be covered by spending less money in other lines in a fund, or may require tax increases to cover the cost. Many requests are to cover the rising cost of everything from software licensing and maintenance to cost of living increases for personnel and prescription drugs and health insurance, for example. Other new funding may be requested to cover cuts or mandates by state and federal government. This year those requests included costs associated with adding a district court judge, administering a program required to regulate storm water discharge, paying expert witness fees, and providing administrative support to the tax appeal board, among others.
Ongoing requests that require a tax increase are heavily scrutinized by the county commissioners. In an effort to prepare for and guide their decision making, county commissioners invited independently elected county officials, chief officers and department heads to collaborate on the framework of a strategic plan this spring. The commissioners then weighed these funding requests in the context of that strategic framework. Namely, did the funding request align with the county’s core values of integrity, innovation, teamwork and community? Did the funding request meaningfully move the county closer to its goals of healthy, safe and vibrant communities, public engagement, quality workforce, resource stewardship and economic development?
The commissioners reviewed more than 70 distinct budgets and heard presentations from county officials on 253 new requests for funding from nearly every county department. The commissioners have already rejected 24 of those requests, 104 requests are pending and included in the preliminary budget, and 125 are approved and included in the preliminary budget. Of the 253 requests, 38 are requests for revenue. Some of those requests capture state or federal grant money (also known as intergovernmental revenue) to be accounted for in the FY19 budget. Other requests reflect revenue from a low interest intercap loan available to counties to finance large capital equipment purchases. Finally, other revenue requests are referred to as a “transfer in” which captures a transfer from one county fund to another to ensure more accurate accounting across funds.
There are 215 budget requests for expenditures, 20 of which are already rejected: 42 budget requests for personnel-related expenses (five are already rejected), 118 for operations-related expenses (eight are already rejected), 40 for capital outlay expenses (three are already rejected), 14 transfers out (to ensure more accurate accounting across funds), and one debt service request (already rejected). The personnel requests cover everything from retirement benefits and statutorily required compensatory time payments, to new positions and increases to overtime lines in various budgets. Operations requests are as varied as the work Missoula County conducts every day and include increases to technology maintenance and software licenses, bridge repairs, dust abatement on roads, training and professional licensing reimbursement, increases in prescription costs in employee benefits, and a new nursing contract at the detention center.
The preliminary FY19 budget includes all pending and approved budget requests. Because the certified taxable value numbers from the DOR will have a direct impact on the number of pending requests included in the final budget, it is likely there will be fewer budget requests funded in the final budget.
Of note in this year’s budget is the increase in the permissive medical mills levied. The county is authorized in 2-9-2012 MCA to levy taxes to fund contributions for group insurance. Historically, the county has not levied the amount necessary to cover those costs. To more accurately reflect the mills levied in each fund for personnel, operations and capital, the preliminary budget reflects a 5.68 county-wide and 0.87 county-only mill increase to the permissive medical levy. This offsets the mills required in other county funds, and is reflected as a decrease in mills levied for those funds. Attachment C in the preliminary budget shows the mills levied in each fund and compares fiscal years 18 and 19.
This year, Missoula County’s budget team comprised County Auditor Dave Wall, Chief Administrative Officer Vickie Zeier, Chief Financial Officer Andrew Czorny, Chief Operating Officer Chris Lounsbury, Finance Director Christi Page, Risk and Benefits Director Erica Grinde, Technology Director Jason Emery, Management Analyst Amanda Henthorne and Communications and Projects Director Anne Hughes. The budget team facilitates the budget process, offers support and counsel to commissioners and departments, provides analytical support and seeks to improve availability of budget information for the public.
Anyone interested can view the commissioners’ meeting schedule, find meeting agendas and minutes on the commissioners’ agenda portal, and read the Budget in Brief publication from FY18 to learn more about the budget process. You can also view your tax bill and learn how your taxes are distributed to the various taxing jurisdictions in which you live. Once you find your property on iTax, just click on the “View Pie Charts” link.
We welcome comments and suggestions on the preliminary budget and the budget process. Call the Commissioners’ Office at 258-4877 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the Year Ended: