Billings, Montana – Some members of the city council are upset about a $143 million parks bond because they fear the proposed recreation facility will take precedence over park renovations.
In an effort to make clear exactly what will be built and where the funds would go, the council has put up a document.
If the bond issue is approved, the resolution will inform voters of the projects that will be built.
Some council members claim that resolution will guarantee the construction of some of the smaller neighborhood initiatives.
With the $143 million, a new recreation complex with two ice rinks and a competitive pool would be constructed. also significant improvements to other city parks.
“We took special care in the resolution to say, the Rec Center has its own budget,” said Councilman Tom Rupsis. “And all the parks projects have their own budgets and this is how we expect this to work. And we’re not going to poach budgets from one project to fund another.”
However, as November draws near, locals are becoming more vocal.
Concerned about what the council is asking of taxpayers, many have emailed the body.
One resident writes: “Did someone bring up ongoing costs after the parks, trails and buildings are added to the maintenance obligations of the city?”
Another writes: “We can’t afford to be taxed anymore.”
And finally this sentiment: “The last thing we need is another huge tax bill. Please postpone putting the parks agenda on the November ballot.”
“These projects are in my opinion critical for Billings,” said Rupsis.
Rupsis is aware of these worries.
He joined the majority in voting for a motion to establish precise rules for how the bond might be spent, which was approved Monday night by a vote of 7-4.
The resolution states that the total cost of constructing a new recreation center will not exceed $110 million, of which $85 million will come from a bond and $25 million from the South Billings Urban Renewal District.
The remaining $58 million of the approved bond money would be used to enhance other public parks.
“I think there’s there’s a lot of merit to a rec center but it is early stage there’s a lot of unknowns,” said Councilmember Jennifer Owen.
She said that the project will cost more than $200 million due to bond interest payments.
Additionally, if the bond is approved, voters will later need to approve a mill levy for operational costs.
Owen cast a no vote because he doesn’t believe the resolution will accomplish its goals.
She concerns that money will be diverted from other projects to make up the difference if the recreation center turns out to cost more than what is planned.
“Now the resolution we acted on Monday night was designed to prevent that from happening,” Owen said. “But it doesn’t have enforcement mechanisms. And it doesn’t have a solution.”
“By passing this resolution, this is essentially our promise to voters,” said Rupsis.