Commission Reduces Public Safety Mill Levy
On Monday, August 19, Broadwater County Commissioners voted to disburse mill levies to each county department. The mill levy is the tax rate that is applied to the assessed value. In general terms, the mill levy is determined by dividing the dollars needed for local services by the assessed property value in the service area. The mill value rate for this budget year is increased from $16,047 per mill to $17,604 per mill.
Since 2005 the mill levies disbursed to Public Safety has decreased from 45.6 mills, fluctuating up and down, and now to the current mills of 37. Which has left Public Safety with the burden of funding their budget by increasing their revenue, by increasing their jail population. Currently, Broadwater County Detention Center is contracted with Lewis and Clark County Jail to house inmates due to over-housing in Lewis and Clark County jail. Housing inmates from Lewis & Clark funds the Broadwater County Public Safety revenue.
Recently, Lewis and Clark County Captain Alan Hughes reported with their current jail expansion Lewis and Clark county will no longer have to send inmates with cases in Lewis and Clark County to other nearby jails. Good news for Lewis and Clark County; bad news for Broadwater County. According to Sheriff Meehan and Undersheriff Harris, this will be a substantial revenue loss of around $500,000. The newly expanded Lewis and Clark County jail is expected to open in August 2020.
During the August 19 Commission meeting, it was noted that Commissioners had stated earlier in the budgeting process that Public Safety mills would remain at 37 for this budget year. In fact, the Sheriff's office submitted a balanced budget for the new fiscal year based on that commitment from Commissioners to keep their mills at 37. Since the mill levy value was anticipated to increase this year, public safety, as well as other departments, expected that mill levy value to reflect an increase in their budget.
During Monday's Commissioner meeting, the Sheriff's Office asked to confirm how many mills Public Safety is being given, which should have been 37. Commissioner Obert and County Accounting Officer, Debbie Kelley informed the Undersheriff and Sheriff that the mill levies being disbursed to the Public Safety is being decreased to 36 mills.
Bill Davis, a ranch owner and taxpayer in Broadwater County called out the Commissioners, pleading with the Commission to increase the mill levies to Pubic Safety for the Sheriff's Office to have the ability and resources to continue to protect our community, as well as their own lives, as they serve. Davis suggested eliminating or reducing new county positions that are not needed