Originally published in the 9/8/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.
BILLINGS — Pointing out that Yellowstone County’s 2017-18 budget is only “sustainable” if the proposed Safety Mill Levy passes, County Commissioner Denis Pitman refused to second a motion to pass it. But, then he said he would vote for it, but he wants the public to understand that it may be necessary to develop a more austere budget if “things don’t turn out.”
County Commissioners went forward then, on Tuesday, to unanimously approve the county’s over $94 million budget for the coming year, following two public hearings, this week and last. The budget is a 6.3 percent increase over FY 2017’s budget.
Pitman warned that without the passing of the proposed Safety Mill Levy, they will reach a point between two and five years from now “where we are out of money.” The current budget, said Pitman, places the county in a “reactive” position, and he would rather that they be “pro-active.” He said he would be dedicating himself to getting the Safety Mill Levy passed.
Because of the tight budget, during last week’s hearing, Pitman proposed an amendment which would have set a new county policy to cease contributing funds to private non-profit organizations. And, also because, said Pitman, he has never been comfortable with donating taxpayer money to private organizations. His motion failed for the lack of a second.
The policy would have impacted the county’s PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) fund, which is money the federal government pays to the county in lieu of paying taxes on federal lands in the county. Pitman said he wanted PILT money to be used as a “rainy day” fund, but County Commissioner John Ostlund said that is essentially how it