By Brianna Loper
December 14, 2014
Kalispell plans to expand its light maintenance district so more people are paying taxes to raise an additional $149,000 a year.
But the city has received many emails and phone calls from citizens expressing concern or confusion about how the light maintenance district will work.
A public hearing at tonight's City Council meeting will try to clear up some of the confusion and hear additional questions or comments.
On Nov. 17 the council passed a resolution indicating its intent to expand the district "to include all real properties within the boundaries of the city," as well as raise rates.
Currently the city imposes fees only on properties within 300 feet of street lights.
The new ordinance would increase the annual fees as well as require all property owners in the city to pay the light taxes.
Properties within 300 feet of a street light would be charged an annual tax of 0.33 cents per square foot, up from the current 0.30 cents per square foot. Those parcels not within 300 feet of a street light or in subdivisions with private lighting systems would pay half that amount: 0.165 cents per square foot.
The city currently gets $236,000 a year from the light maintenance fees. The proposal would increase that to $385,000.
The higher light taxes would be in effect for six years if approved. The last tax increase for the light maintenance district was in 2003.
The money raised through the light maintenance district pays the salaries of traffic signs and signal employees, supplies, machinery, repair and maintenance on lights in high-use areas, as well as electric costs.
An updated version of a pawn broker ordinance will be presented during the meeting. The ordinance would require both pawn shops and secondhand stores to use software called LeadsOnline, which would connect the inventory of those businesses to the Kalispell Police Department.
The original ordinance was reviewed at an Oct. 6 council meeting, but local pawn-shop owners and employees attended the meeting to voice multiple concerns.
Among the changes in the most recently updated version is a lower number of days a pawnbroker must hold an item. Pawn shops would be required to hold items for only seven days, instead of an original 14 days. This was a main concern for pawnbrokers, who felt inventory would build up and create a storage problem for pawn shops if they were required to hold items too long before selling.
In other business, the council will discuss a budget amendment to authorize the use of a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant. The $10,976.02 grant is designated for equipment expenditures.
Originally, the grant funds were deposited into the drug enforcement fund, but will need to be transferred to a different fund to fulfill the grant purpose. Currently the grant is earmarked for converting the in-car police camera system to a new system, Watchguard. As part of the budget amendment process, a public hearing has been set for Jan. 5, 2015.
The Immanuel Lutheran Corp. and Wells Fargo Bank want to lower the interest rate on a bond issued by the city for the purpose of expanding the housing and health-care facilities on the Buffalo Hill campus, a project valued at $14 million. The group seeks to take advantage of the current financial market, as the interest rate originally was established in 2010.
The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Kalispell City Hall. For a complete agenda, visit www.kalispell.com.