Yellowstone County

Taxpayers save $1.7 million in county jail bond sale

Originally published in the 9/29/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

BILLINGS — Good news for county taxpayers!

The bond sale to finance the addition to the Yellowstone County Detention Facility (YCDF) was much better for county taxpayers than even best expectations.

On Tuesday, County Commissioners approved a $9.7 million general obligation bond sale at 2.24 percent interest over 20 years to Robert W. Baird & Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Their bid was one of nine — far more bids than expected — and the rate of interest offered by Baird was considerably lower than the conservative 3.75 percent originally estimated by County Director of Finance Kevan Bryan, in preparing the bond proposal for consideration by voters.

But, even more, the rate was also lower than the most likely 2.75 percent rate that the county’s advisors, Springstead, said they should expect. Springstead, a public sector financial consulting firm, also said that the county should expect only four to six bidders. The stiff competition of nine bidders generated the lower interest rate.

“It was a surprise,” said Bryan, “They paid a premium to get this bond.”

The interest of so many firms wanting to get the loan results from the fact that Yellowstone County is such a good credit risk. Standard & Poor recently gave the county a AA+ rating, the highest possible and the highest of any government entity in the state, said Bryan.

Yellowstone County Commissioners approve $94 million budget, Pitman refuses to second motion

Originally published in the 9/8/17 print edition.  This is an early release of the story.

BILLINGS — Pointing out that Yellowstone County’s 2017-18 budget is only “sustainable” if the proposed Safety Mill Levy passes, County Commissioner Denis Pitman refused to second a motion to pass it. But, then he said he would vote for it, but he wants the public to understand that it may be necessary to develop a more austere budget if “things don’t turn out.”

County Commissioners went forward then, on Tuesday, to unanimously approve the county’s over $94 million budget for the coming year, following two public hearings, this week and last. The budget is a 6.3 percent increase over FY 2017’s budget.

Pitman warned that without the passing of the proposed Safety Mill Levy, they will reach a point between two and five years from now “where we are out of money.” The current budget, said Pitman, places the county in a “reactive” position, and he would rather that they be

City, county may split ways on zoning regulations

Originally published in the 8/25/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

BILLINGS — Yellowstone County Commissioners approved a proposed separation of the zoning regulations that govern the City of Billings and Yellowstone County.

Called the Unified Zoning Regulations, the City-County Planning Board proposed separating the governance of the two governmental entities to facilitate a planned update and revision of the goals and policies of each.

By the time County Commissioners approved the separation, the City Council had already approved the proposal, said Nicole Cromwell, zoning coordinator and code enforcement supervisor for the Planning Department.

Cromwell said that the separation involved no other changes or deletions to the Unified Zoning Regulations and, in fact, much time was spent on making sure that the zoning regulations for the county and for the city remained the same. Going forward, each governing body will be able to consider and adopt changes to the zoning code for their own jurisdiction.

The City and County agreed to unify the zoning code in 1993 and it was completed in 1997. The separation was initiated by the Yellowstone County Board of Planning as a step in a multi-year project to update and “modernize” the zoning codes to meet the goals and guidelines adopted through Growth Policies, Neighborhood Plans and other land use policies.

County’s taxable value up 4.6 percent

Originally published in the 8/25/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

BILLINGS — The total taxable value of property in Yellowstone County increased 4.6 percent in FY 2016-17.

About half that increase is due to the construction of new property or what might be called the addition of new value to the total of assets in the county.

The balance of the increase in taxable value is the result of revised estimate of the value of existing property.

Only new construction results in increased revenue to county government and other taxing jurisdictions. The taxable value of Newly Taxable Property in FY2017-18 is $8,064,294, compared to $13,971,270 in FY 2016-17.

Yellowstone County’s base levy will generate $785,000 in new

Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office moves to new location

Originally published in the 8/25/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.

BILLINGS — The Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office will be in a new home at the end of this week.

Sheriff Mike Linder said in a press release that remodeling projects are nearly complete at the former Payne West Insurance building at 2323 2nd Ave North.

At the end of this week, the office will move there from its current location at 2550 3rd Ave N.

Linder said business operations for the sheriff’s office will move on Thursday, Aug. 24 and Friday, Aug. 25.

“While there will still be some work to do on the exterior, including signage,” Linder said in the release, “office space and security features have been completed.”