Scheduled for a mail-in ballot this March, the $4.6 million levy, if sanctioned, will finance the acquisition of new equipment and the recruitment of additional personnel for Kalispell’s police and fire departments.
After experiencing a rise in call volumes and delayed response times over the years, Kalispell city officials are initiating an educational campaign ahead of the March vote on a $4.6 million public safety levy. City Manager Doug Russell shared the campaign details during a Jan. 8 work session, emphasizing the committee’s efforts to educate the public about the heightened demand for public safety services and the necessity for additional funding.
In November, councilors approved a resolution to include the emergency responder levy on the March 19 special election ballot. The proposal, previously rejected by Kalispell voters in 2014, aims to allocate funds for 11 new positions in the Kalispell Police Department (KPD) and 27 in the fire department. This includes the establishment of a third fire station and the acquisition of additional fire department equipment. For a property with a market value of $450,000, residents would incur an annual cost of $369 or $30.82 per month if the levy is successful.
The decision to propose the levy follows reports from the Center for Public Safety Management (CPSM), highlighting Kalispell’s population growth outpacing available resources. City Manager Russell stressed the urgency of addressing the increasing demand for emergency services, emphasizing that the need is expected to persist in the future.
The CPSM report reveals a 38% surge in felony cases in the city, prompting the levy to add two detectives and a crime analyst. Additional law enforcement officers would also be hired to improve response times, which currently average about nine minutes—considerably slower than the national average of four minutes. Meanwhile, the fire department has experienced a 23% increase in total call volume between ambulance and fire responses.
To accommodate the growth in west Kalispell, the levy proposes the addition of an ambulance, fire engine, and a third station on Farm to Market Road. Russell noted that, with the police and fire departments consuming 74% of the city’s general fund, there is insufficient funding to cover the necessary personnel and equipment costs.
Despite the city’s population growth and a 4% increase in property tax revenue, Russell highlighted that these extra dollars have not kept up with a 6% spike in inflation, leaving the city falling behind from a property tax perspective.
In an effort to inform the community, the committee has produced an educational promotional video about the levy, currently being shown during movie previews at the Cinemark Signature Stadium Kalispell 14. Russell plans to continue presenting information about the levy at events throughout the county, aiming to ensure that the community is well-informed and can voice their preferences regarding service delivery.