Kalispell Emergency Responder Levy Passes

MARCH 20, 2024

Kalispell voters on March 19 passed a $4.6 million Emergency Responder Levy that will add dozens of firefighter positions and law enforcement staff to the city’s police and fire departments and bring a third fire station to West Valley.

The levy passed by 882 votes, with 3,367 votes in favor and 2,485 against, totaling a voter turnout of 5,852 in the mail-in special election.

Starting in fiscal year 2025, city officials will begin to hire 11 additional law enforcement staff to the Kalispell Police Department (KPD) and 27 firefighter and medical staff positions to the Kalispell Fire Department (KFD). The city will also add a third fire station on Farm to Market Road and purchase additional equipment within the fire department.

Homeowners will pay and additional $82.22 in annual taxes per $100,000 of their assessed property value.

The passage of the levy marks a success for the City of Kalispell as increasing call volumes and response times within the fire and police departments have persisted in recent years. Staff proposed the levy in response to reports conducted by the Center for Public Safety Management (CPSM), which concluded that Kalispell’s population has outpaced its resources.

Voters rejected a public safety levy in 2014, which was the last time it was on the ballot.

Earlier this year, city officials launched an educational campaign for voters to advocate for the $4.6 million levy, which included presentations at the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce and the creation of a promotional video that was shown in Cinemark Signature Stadium Kalispell 14 and other events across the city.

According to the CPSM report, there has been a 38% spike in felony cases within the city in recent years and the levy will add two detectives and a crime analyst to meet that demand.

Additional law enforcement officers will also be hired, which will speed up response times. The police and fire department response times currently average about nine minutes, significantly slower than the national average of four minutes.

At the fire department, the total call volume between ambulance and fire responses has increased 23% in recent years.

The levy will add another ambulance, fire engine and a third station on Farm to Market Road to accommodate the growth in west Kalispell.

City Manager Doug Russell said earlier this year that the police and fire departments currently take up 74% of the city’s general fund and there is no additional money available to cover the costs of the needed personnel and equipment.

While the city has gained new residents and property tax growth of 4%, those extra dollars have not kept up with inflation, which has spiked costs by 6%.

Original link: https://flatheadbeacon.com/2024/03/20/kalispell-emergency-responder-levy-passes/

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