Billings may be looking at another vote this coming spring, this time for a Public Safety Mill Levy. If a levy is passed, it could raise property taxes and provide additional funding for departments like Billings Fire and Billings Police.
Both departments say the increased funding would be used for training, among other things. Billings Police and Billings Fire tell me they have to be prepared for a wide variety of calls, but they have had to cut their training budgets.
Administrative Lieutenant Brandon Wooley with the Billings Police Department said, "We've reduced our overall department training budget by about 10%, which is almost $8,000."
Lt Wooley said officers take calls for things like runaway complaints, shooters, accidents, DUI's and more.
Wooley said, "And that training is what helps us give that quality to the services we provide."
Billings Fire said they have to be prepared for more than just fires. They have to be prepared for things like water rescues and Rim rescues.
Assistant Fire Chief Matt Hoppel with the Billings Fire Department said, "So, just recently we had some cuts to a couple of our training sessions and it related to special teams. Our HAZMAT training that we normally conduct quarterly. We bring all of our technicians in on a Friday and practice those techniques, same thing with the rescue training. And, we've had to cancel those just because of where we're at with our budget right now."
Billings Fire said they have experienced a 51% increase in calls for service since 2012. They said their average response time is 7 minutes 28 seconds- nearly twice the standard response time of four minutes. They tell me they need more firefighters.
Hoppel said, "What we did is looked at 'What can we do best and kind of meet in the middle?' And, that was to build two new stations to improve those response times and the personnel that goes with them. So, we can get there quicker and address that person's emergency."
Wooley said Billings Police wants to proactively target crime. He said violent crime and property crime have increased over the last ten years.
Wooley said, "If we want to continue to keep the services that we have now and keep going through the future, we are going to need some more manpower and some more resources to accomplish that. But, if that doesn't come, we are still going to work with what we have and do the best that we can with the resources that we have."
Billings City Council is continuing to look at a possible Public Safety Mill Levy, as well as other options for funding