Monday, August 31, 2009

6th Question: Levies

Here are the answers to this question: Why did the city police and fire special levies fail, and what should be done, if anything, to improve staffing in those departments?

John Rosenbaum:I believe they failed because of the timing in the current economic climate. We could look for ways to be more efficient in other areas supported by the general fund. Those savings could then be used to fund public safety, one position at a time.

Donna Zook:The police and fire special levies failed because the residents could not afford or would not pay an increase in property taxes. Many citizens whom I have talked with believe that they are held responsible through taxation because funds are being shuttled from one program to another, and there is a drain on reserve money in order to compensate for budget problems. These citizens feel they should not be taxed to compensate for a financial loss due to the ECP (Electric City Power), animal shelter, City Planning and possible other ventures.

Fred Burow:One big reason the levies failed is the current economic condition. Second, people are tired of being asked to vote for more taxes. Fire and police are very important. I think everyone has great respect for both. Let's look at the whole city budget. We may have to slim down or, in some cases, cut nonessential programs and services in order to fund the most vital (ones).

Kathleen Z. Gessaman:Difficult economic conditions locally and nationwide helped to defeat the special levies. Most people I spoke with strongly support our local police and fire personnel, but were unable to afford the requested mill levy tax increase. The city manager, while maintaining a balanced budget, could use some of the additional money generated by the increase in property taxes (associated with new property appraisals) to fund critical staffing needs in these departments. Neighborhood councils could help the police by coordinating and promoting Neighborhood Watch. Reducing police involvement at the animal shelter could also help lighten the workload.

Robert G. Jones:I believe the special levies for city police and fire departments failed due to existing economic conditions. The additional hiring of 33 personnel and their placement also surprised many citizens because they were not informed of the personnel numbers needed prior to being asked to support the levies. A continued effort of informing the public of staffing needs is very important. We may want to consider smaller increments of personnel to improve staffing in the police and fire departments. To do so would require us to resolve the continued subsidies being taken from the general fund.

Rolland Leitheiser:The economy is the largest reason that the police and fire special levies failed. I am not convinced that a large staffing increase is needed at this time.

Ed McKnight:The proposed levies failed because the majority of voters said no to raising their taxes. According to the Tribune, City Manager Greg Doyon called this year's budget "relatively static," so as commissioners work with the public to check and balance how taxpayer dollars are being spent, then restore priority services with ample funding, that will bring peace of mind to citizens and increase confidence in our bravest and finest.

Bill Bronson:The levies likely failed because the majority of voters were concerned about the financial cost to them personally over the next few years. As a property taxpayer myself, I understand and appreciate that view, although I still supported the levies as necessary for improving public safety. The needs of both departments remain the same, regardless of the outcome of the levies. I will work to find other sources of funding for these needs over the next few years, including grants and the Montana Legislature, so that we can provide effective public services at levels that neither compromise public safety nor the safety of the police and firefighters.

Sandra Guynn:I believe the levies failed due to the tough economic times, although I do think citizens are also getting sick and tired of fiscal irresponsibility on the part of the city. Funds continue to lose money and, with the support from the incumbents, the city's reserves continue to be spent to cover these shortfalls. I am not at all confident in the numbers presented by the city, and I am not positive that we needed a public safety levy in the first place.

John Hubbard:We are in a recession and the people are over-taxed as it is. Considering the economic condition, nothing (should be done) at this point.

Michael Winters:I believe it was too much, too fast, too soon. While both levies were and are necessary and important for our community, the public felt put upon considering the increased tax burden imposed over the next several years. Most folks feel more effective management may very well be the right answer — more effective use of personnel and better time management.

Mike Witsoe:I believe the fire and police levies failed because of the misappropriation of reserve funds and general city funds by the present and past administrations. Funneling those monies in to ECP, SME (Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative) and other various harebrained programs has caused the people to not have trust in their city government. Fire and police are sworn to protect and serve the people. City government has stolen from them and us. Vote for change; it's the only answer.

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