Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) With the budgeting season set to kick off, members of the Missoula City Council this week set the rules that will guide the process and time it with the state's release of its latest tax valuations.

In doing so, the majority of council members sought to ensure individual amendments are in early this year to avoid any grandstanding at 3 a.m. in an effort to curry public favor, as was the case last year.

“This has come about to give some process, sideboards and predictability to our budgeting process,” said council member Stacie Anderson. “Every budget is important, but we'll be discussing some tough issues and will have to make some tough budgeting decisions this year.”

Last year's budgeting process proved to be a frustrating endeavor for both the public and members of council. Council member Daniel Carlino attempted to make several last-minute amendments on the final day of consideration, pushing the meeting to nearly 3 a.m.

In all, the meeting lasted nine hours.

Carlino opposed last year's budget and this week, he also opposed the timeline agreed upon by the council majority regarding the FY 24 budget.

“I want plenty of time to talk through amendments and not run out of time, or cut the meeting short amid making amendments,” Carlino said. “I hope we all come with amendments. Our constituents have been asking us for all sorts of things, and it all comes back to the budget.”

The budget is expected to be tight this year and council leadership has said it will involve difficult choices. As for the modified timeline, city staff said it will give the public opportunity to weight in and give council members plenty of time to review funding requests and make amendments.

Proposed amendments to the executive budget will be accepted up to August 15.

“There's 45 days in which you can submit an amendment,” said Eric Hallstrom, the city's chief operating officer. “We'll have been engaged in conversation about the programs and activities throughout that process. It gives staff time to prepare the materials and hopefully expedite consideration rather than holding things up.”

The mayor is expected to present his executive budget this month, and proposed amendments will be accepted through August 14, according to the city. Amendments submitted before Aug. 2 will be given priority.

The City Council will debate any proposed amendments on Aug. 9 and 16, with final budget adoption expected on Aug. 21.

“The anticipation is that the Department of Revenue numbers will be pretty close this year, so the executive budget you're looking at from June on is basically the budget,” said council president Gwen Jones. “The whole point of this is to do the work earlier, get those proposed amendments in earlier. When we're hearing them in early August, we'll be able to work through them.”

Jones said council will address amendments by topic this year.