City budget moves out of committee

M.P. Regan
Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Finance Committee of the Dillon City Council finished its annual summer triathlon last week.

The committee consisting of Councilpersons Dan Nye, Russ Schwandt and Don Hand completed on Thursday the last of three meetings in eight days to sweat out a preliminary budget proposal for the city for Fiscal Year 2021–22.

The meetings included plenty of good fiscal news for the city, including a sharp decrease in the amount city property owners will be charged for street maintenance (see story on page 1).

And forecasts of a steep decline in revenue that circulated during city meetings last year as the pandemic swept across the state turned out to be greatly exaggerated.

According to forecasts from Klakken’s office this month, monies coming into the general fund are projected to increase by just under 1%, or 0.93%. That may not sound like much, but it represents a boon in relation to some of the dour projections that came out of City Hall last year in the midst of pandemic gloom, when the mayor felt city revenues could plummet by more than 30 percent due to Covid closures and restrictions.

The pandemic actually ended up presenting the city with a windfall of federal COVIDrelief funds, and maybe its most vexing issue of this fiscal year— how to best spend those funds, and do it in a legal manner.

That debate will now head to city council as it takes up the budget at its coming meetings.

“The first August [city council] meeting, I’ve gotta get a resolution to set up a public hearing, which would be before the second meeting of August,” said Klakken of meetings scheduled for Aug. 4 and Aug. 18 that will represent key benchmarks that will have to be met along the way to the council passing a final budget in time to meet state legal requirements.

“And, at that point, after the second public hearing, we’ll have a vote on the final budget on the first [city council] meeting of September—and that’s around the last day we are allowed by law,” said Klakken.

“We’ve got to have a final budget by then. So, that’s the time frame we’re trying to work under.”

Though the fiscal year began July 1, Dillon, like most other municipalities in Montana, does not pass a final budget until just before the legal deadline of the state deadline of “the later of the first Thursday after the first Tuesday in September,” which this year translates to Sept. 9.

The annual gap between the start of the fiscal year and the passage of that year’s city budget is in large part due to the city not having access to the financial data from the county and state necessary to inform a final budget until into August.