Billings working to balance budget; city council may cut park funding

The City of Billings is facing a $7 million deficit according to Billings City Councilwoman Kendra Shaw. Billings City Council will vote on the budget at the Monday, June 22 meeting.

Billings City Council Member for Ward 1 Kendra Shaw says there are a few options. The first is to cut spending. She says the council is considering cutting funding for city pools, splash areas, some park staff, including about 100 seasonal staff, and restrooms.

Another option Shaw says is to use the remainder of reserve money available.

A third option is to raise property assessments. This would cost homeowners about $44 a year for a home worth just over $200,000. 

Shaw said, "If we don't do the tax increase, we burn through the rest of our reserves, which is very dangerous. Or, we make these cuts. And, these cuts would include the pools, the wading pools, the spray pads, pretty much all of the fun park stuff you think about for the summer. I think it would be really devastating to our community."

Shaw said if the cuts happen, they will take effect by July 1. 

Shaw said Billings is spending less on parks per capita than some other sister cities, like Missoula and Bozeman.

Billings resident Tamara Roche said, "I can't believe it. After we've been through COVID-19. I actually have a view of the park from my house and watching all of the families coming here, social distancing and the ability to get fresh air. I just think it's for our mental health. We need this park now, all of our parks open, more than ever."

Another Billings resident Anna O'Donnell said, "Imagine all of this going away because we won't have a wading pool. They won't have public restrooms to use. Sporting events that come in and spend money, tournaments, tennis tournaments, Big Sky State games, cross country meets that happen in this park specifically and all over Billings, that will essentially go away. Or, those directors will have to pay more money to have port-a-potties, other facilities."

 To share your opinions with Billings City, you can email council@billingsmt.gov. You can also watch the council meeting live here at 5:30pm on June 22. The full agenda for the June 22 meeting is available here

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