Saying people and services come first, Missoula Mayor John Engen on Wednesday unveiled his executive budget for Fiscal Year 2022, one that invests heavily in social services and housing initiatives.
While a break down of the budget hasn’t yet been provided, its highlights include an investment of more than $4.5 million for homelessness and mental health care, tens-of-thousands for local childcare programs, and a continued effort to acquire and develop city-owned property for housing and commercial development.
“Access to affordable housing is a critical issue in our community, and the City of Missoula is committed to ensuring that every person, regardless of economic status, has access to housing that’s safe and affordable,” Engen said. “We’ll continue to purchase land and partner with the private sector on innovative new development models.”
That includes a $500,000 investment in FY22 to support the development of city properties on Scott Street, West Broadway and Johnson Street. It also directs roughly $2.7 million in one-time funding to support the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
Engen’s proposed budget also directs $850,000 to overhaul and align the city’s regulatory codes with its housing, transportation and green infrastructure goals. Doing so, he said, will help propel the city’s larger housing initiatives.
Many of this year’s proposals stem from unexpected funding made available from the American Rescue Plan recently passed by Congress. The city will receive around $14.2 million split over two years.
Funding provided last year through a similar congressional act enabled the city to hold levies flat. Engen said his FY22 budget will do the same.
“This year presents similar unique opportunities, and this budget takes advantage of those opportunities,” Engen said. “It strives to keep our levies flat for the third year in a row.”
Other investments identified in Engen’s proposed budget invest heavily in social services, including the homeless, crisis intervention and emergency shelter. That includes $525,000 in funding to support the city’s new mobile crisis support team and $3.5 million for veteran and supportive housing in partnership with the Poverello.
The city will also provide the Pov with $211,000 to support operations, and $311,000 to continue future winter shelter needs. Engen also is proposing a $150,000 allocation to address city policies and procedures on equity, while adding a permanent position within the city to address equity efforts.
“These goals and investments are not exclusive of all the day-to-day work and initiatives at the City of Missoula and the work we’re already engaged in,” Engen said. “Nor do they account for the fact that we may face unexpected opportunities and challenges that may require us to adapt or change these priorities.”
Other investments detailed in Engen’s executive budget include $112,000 for planning a community center at McCormick Park, and $650,000 to support the city’s eventual transition into the downtown federal building.
Proposed spending on the built environment includes an investment in infrastructure on Mullan Road, the complete restoration of the former Rattlesnake Dam, neighborhood traffic management and trail infrastructure.
“We’ll work closely with Missoula County on many of these issues and make joint investments where practical,” Engen said. “When we receive our certified tax values from (the state) in August, we’ll fully understand revenues, which may change this budget for better or for worse, depending on your perspective.”
In years past, certified taxable values provided by the Montana Department of Revenue have been unpredictable, at times coming in lower than what the city and county had projected. Those values are expected on August 2, roughly midway through the budgeting process.
But early projections suggest that taxable values this year will be up due to new development across the city and elevated appraisals conducted by the state. Some property owners saw the certified taxable value of their home jump as much as 30% this year.
“Based on what we know today, we’re confident we can deliver a budget that’s meaningful and works for residents and reflects the values of the community,” Engen said. “It’s crafted to ensure the essential services our residents and visitors deserve are delivered effectively.”