Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) The Missoula fire and police departments kicked off the budgeting season on Wednesday, detailing their funding requests for the new fiscal year.

While the Missoula Police Department is seeking only $235,000 in new expenses, the fire department is looking for an increase of more than $9 million.

That includes small expenses, such as an increase of $40,000 to cover increasing utility costs, to larger items, including $2.3 million to stand up a new fire company.

“It’s quite significant,” Missoula Fire Chief Gordy Hughes said of the funding increase. “But that’s where were standing for FY ’25.”

The department’s current operating budget stands at around $19 million but needs to grow to meet the demands of a growing population and a wider response area. The department’s response times have slipped in recent years and growth to the west has stretched the department thin.

To address the issue, the fire department is asking voters to consider a fire levy, providing $7 million annually. Without the levy, the city may be challenged to cover the department’s $9 million in additional needs.

Broken down, the department is seeking $4.2 million in new requests, which includes $2.3 million for a new 20-person fire company and $1.4 million to permanently fund the Mobile Support Team. It also includes $173,000 for cardiac monitors, along with other smaller items.

The increase also includes $4.2 million in capital improvements, including $1.7 million for a new Station 6 and $2.1 million for facilities expansion. Core replacement costs, placed at $1.3 million, also adds to the fire department’s budget increase.

If passed by voters, the levy would enable the city to bond against certain expenses, according to Dale Bickel, the city’s CAO.

“A big portion of the $9 million is capital facilities. We would intend to use bonding to pay for those,” said Bickel. “We’d be able to create a new fire company and provide the capital necessary through bonding, which we can use the levy for to build that station and equip it.”

The Missoula Police Department’s new budget also seeks an additional $235,000. Police Chief Mike Colyer said the request would hard-fund the Crisis Intervention Team and contribute to the county’s cost of registering sexual or violent offenders at the county jail.

The police department’s funding request also looks to partially fund a school resource officer in partnership with Missoula County Public Schools. The position would cost the city between $60,000 and $105,000, depending on the outcome of a grant request.

“The (MCPS) superintended wanted to have an additional school resource officer populated into the three middle schools,” said Colyer. “This is a request coming from the superintended. They felt strongly about it and asked if we’d support it. They’ve identified the need for it.”

Over the coming weeks, all city departments will present their requests for the new fiscal year as the city waits for the Montana Department of Revenue to release its new taxable valuations. Once the figures come in, the city will present its proposed budget, which may or may not include the new budget requests.

The budget is set for adoption in late summer.

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