Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Voters in the City of Missoula were in strong support of a fire levy and opposed to a study on local government, according to early returns.

With 13,700 ballots counted, the fire levy was winning with 62% in support and 38% opposed. The levy is permanent and would generate up to $7 million annually to support growth in the Missoula Fire Department.

Fire officials last week approached the Missoula City Council during the budgeting presentations to request nearly $9 million in new requests. That includes a new fire station in the greater Mullan area, a 20-person fire company to staff it, and new equipment to bolster the station.

The funding request also included permanent funding for the Mobile Support Team. If the levy passes, as it appears to be, the City Council could cross a majority of the department's requests off the list, as taxpayers would pick up the burden through the levy.

City officials said Tuesday they would wait for the final tally before commenting on the levy initiative. A press conference with the mayor and fire chief is scheduled for Wednesday morning. The levy would cost property owners roughly $46 annually for every $100,000 in a home's assessed values.

While voters appeared in support of the fire levy, they were strongly opposed to a study of local government. The state requires local governments to place the question before voters every 10 years.

In early returns, the local government study was on pace to fail, with 64% opposed and 35% in support.