By Evelyn Pyburn
If it weren’t for the revenues diverted in the five tax increment finance districts (TIFD), how much more revenue would be available to the county budget and the budget of other governmental entities?
That’s the question that Kevin Nelson of Billings asked himself in launching research that no one else seemed interested in doing. While there are variables involved, the answer to Nelson’s question is somewhere between $170,000 and $180,000.
“What will customers get for an increase in fees?”— was the question that Yellowstone County Commissioners posed to the City-County Planning staff at a recent commission meeting, which was a venue for an informal hearing regarding Planning’s request for an increase in fees.
Primary public comment came from representatives of sign companies who object to a proposed increase that would triple what they see as a “tax” on signs.
By Evelyn Pyburn
“We will have to keep in mind, from now until the legislative session is over that some of the problems the state is having could come back to our doorstep,” Scott Turner, Yellowstone County Director of Finance, advised Yellowstone County Commissioners, as he opened up a series of budget discussion meetings that will be held over the next two weeks. The sessions, in which commissioners meet with the heads of each county department to review the financial issues impacting their operations, began Monday afternoon and will run through June 23.
The budget being proposed for fiscal year 2010-11 for Yellowstone County assumes tax revenues projections based upon an estimated two percent growth in construction taxable value and a known 1.142 percent inflation factor, said Turner. Entitlement growth for FY 11 is included at 6.3 percent – entitlements are commitments of funding from the state legislature to local governments.
By Evelyn Pyburn
Expressing strong opposition to goals in the Transportation Plan that would direct a portion of future transportation funding to alternative modes of transportation, and also opposition to language in the proposed plan that would mandate future development to be compliant with bike trail goals, Yellowstone County Commissioners approved the city and county’s Transportation Plan on Tuesday, with the deletion of language specific to those effects. The plan, a federal requirement of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, (MPO) will now advance to the Policy Coordinating Committee (PCC) for its consideration.
Commissioner John Ostlund said that he was opposed to redirecting a portion of future funding for other purposes when so many traditional transportation projects remain unfunded.
County officers are being asked to consider several tax incentive applications. GE and the Big Sky Economic Development Authority (EDA) is requesting one under the county’s ten year program for new buildings. GE is leasing a building which was built for it by EDA. GE pays a “beneficial use tax,” through EDA, on the $9.3 million building. The total estimated taxes that they will pay over the next ten years, with the approval of the tax incentive is $462,402 – giving the company a 10-year savings of $221,970. The new building program requires that they pay half of the tax on the first five years, with the tax incrementally increasing 20 percent of the next five years until they are fully taxed. In making the application, Steve Arveschoug, EDA Director, emphasized that the company has a $7 million payroll, locally, and provides 166 jobs, with another 16 to be added in the next couple of months. The number of jobs could eventually reach 220, said Arveschoug, adding “The community is making a good investment.”
The Transportation Plan, in the process of being updated for Yellowstone County, will be recommended by the Planning Department to Yellowstone County Commissioners for approval with the addition of a new amendment. It will be considered for adoption on May 11.
Lora Mattox of the Planning Department said that the amendment states that the Transportation Plan should manage traffic in a way which would address a goal “of getting more cars off the roads.”
By Evelyn Pyburn
Come this fall, two one-way streets in East Billings will become two-way streets. Patty Nordland, of the Big Sky Economic Development Authority (EDA) announced that the East Billings Urban Renewal District (EBURD) has received a federal grant to do the $308,750 project. Funds will finance the oversight, design and installation of two-way streets for 2nd and 3rd Avenues North from 13th Street to 22nd Street.
Board member Rick Leuthold said that there is interest among some city officials to extend the two-way streets through downtown Billings but there is no funding to do so.
By Phil Drake, Montana Watchdog
While Montana rates high nationwide in terms of current economic performance its financial future could be bleak, according to a recent report issued by a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan association of state legislators.
The report, “Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index”, ranked Montana as No. 2 when it comes to economic performance but No. 33, when it comes to economic outlook.
The Big Sky Business Journal
P.O. Box 3262
Billings, MT 59103