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Billings City Council finishes 3-day work session on budget

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The Billings City Council heard about increased construction costs for public works and needs of other departments Wednesday night.

This was the third and last of the work sessions dealing with information for the budget review.

The City Council met at the Billings Public Library Royal Johnson Community Room.

Mayor Bill Cole said as the council goes over the budget, the priority will be public safety.

“That’s priority one, two and three,” Cole said. “We really have to get our arms around this increase in crime that we’ve been seeing. All departments have typical cost of living increases. Everybody’s trying to pull that belt just as tight as they can. We’re not seeing a lot of requests for additional staffing from other departments. Everybody knows the priority is public safety.”

The council heard from several staff members, including Kevin Ploehn, director of aviation and transit.

“My emphasis to Kevin is, I realize this is a city-owned airport,” said Chris Kukulski, Billings city administrator. “But no local property tax dollars are going to the airport. That’s not a bad thing. That’s good. My point is, I want him and future leaders of that airport to not treat it like it is a city, local-government-run facility. It has to compete with the best airports.”

Kukulski also addressed another airport issue.

“Why don’t I just proactively get the question that I know will come,” Kukulski said. “Which is, why is the airport no longer paying storm and street fees? Long story short, it’s become a pretty significant issue. Great Falls, Helena, in between the FAA. The bottom line is, we felt we were at risk of losing FAA grant funding by charging both of those assessments.”

The city council also had budget review on the agenda.

Cole expects details of the proposed mill levy to be out in June so it can be put to a vote in November.

On Monday, the City Council will consider proposed rate increases for water and waste water.

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