Saying that people and services come first, Missoula Mayor John Engen unveiled his fiscal 2022 executive budget on Wednesday, which invests heavily in social services and housing initiatives.
While a budget breakdown has not yet been presented, highlights include investing more than $ 4.5 million in homelessness and mental health care, tens of thousands for local childcare programs, and ongoing efforts to acquire and develop the city-owned land for Residential and commercial real estate.
“Access to affordable housing is a critical issue in our community, and the City of Missoula is committed to ensuring that everyone, regardless of economic status, has access to safe and affordable housing,” said Engen. “We will continue to buy land and work with the private sector on innovative new development models.”
This includes a $ 500,000 investment in FY22 to support urban land development on Scott Street, West Broadway and Johnson Street. It also directs one-time funding of approximately $ 2.7 million in support of the City’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
Engen’s proposed budget also includes $ 850,000 to revise the city’s regulatory rules to align with their housing, transportation, and green infrastructure goals. This will help fuel the city’s larger housing initiatives.
Many of this year’s proposals come from unexpected funds from the US rescue plan recently passed by Congress. The city will receive around $ 14.2 million over two years.
Funding provided through a similar Congressional bill last year enabled the city to keep levies flat. Engen said his budget for FY22 will do the same.
“This year has similar unique opportunities and this budget is taking advantage of those opportunities,” said Engen. “We aim to keep our levies flat for the third year in a row.”
Other investments identified in Engen’s draft budget invest heavily in social services, including homeless assistance, crisis intervention and shelters. That includes $ 525,000 to support the city’s new mobile crisis support team and $ 3.5 million to provide veterans and supportive accommodations in partnership with the Poverello.
The city will also provide $ 211,000 to the Pov to aid operations and $ 311,000 to help meet future winter shelter needs. Engen is also proposing a $ 150,000 allocation to improve city equity policies and procedures while creating a permanent position in the city to support justice efforts.
“These goals and investments not only preclude the day-to-day work and initiatives of the City of Missoula and the work we are already involved in,” said Engen. “Nor do they take into account the fact that we may face unexpected opportunities and challenges that may require us to adjust or change these priorities.”
Other investments listed in Engen’s executive budget include $ 112,000 in planning a community center in McCormick Park and $ 650,000 in support of the city’s eventual transition to the federal building downtown.
The planned built environment spending includes investments in infrastructure on Mullan Road, full restoration of the former rattlesnake dam, traffic management in the neighborhood and infrastructure of the hiking trails.
“We will work closely with Missoula County on many of these issues and, where possible, make joint investments,” said Engen. “When we receive our certified tax values from the (state) in August, we will fully understand the revenue, which can change that budget for better or for worse depending on your perspective.”
Over the past several years, the certified taxable values provided by the Montana Department of Revenue have been unpredictable and sometimes lower than the city and county forecast. These values are expected on August 2nd, roughly in the middle of the budgeting process.
However, initial projections suggest that taxable values will rise this year due to new developments across the city and increased estimates by the state. For some property owners, the certified taxable value of their home has increased by up to 30% this year.
“Based on what we know today, we are confident that we can provide a reasonable budget that benefits residents and reflects the values of the community,” said Engen. “It is designed to ensure that the essential services our residents and visitors deserve are being delivered effectively.”